AUSTIN, TX — Texas recorded a record, triple-digit number of new deaths of the coronavirus on Thursday, with 105 fatalities in a single 24-hour period. Moreover, 9,782 new cases of the respiratory illness were diagnosed in the same time span.
The new deaths mark the first time single-day fatalities have reached the triple digits. The total number of fatalities in Texas since the onset of illness is now 2,918 as shown on a Texas Department of State Health Services statistical dashboard that is updated daily.
Another grim record reached on Thursday is the seven-day rolling average for coronovirus positivity rates, now at 15.6 percent. According to the data, there are an estimated 109,102 active cases in the state with around 118,326 recoveries. To date, 230,346 cases of the illness have been recorded across the state.
As if those numbers weren't troubling enough, Gov. Greg Abbott said next week's will be worse: “The numbers are going to look worse as we go into next week,” he told KRIV-TV in Houston late Thursday. In another television interview with KXTX, the Spanish-language Telemundo’s affiliate in Dallas, Abbott said the virus is disproportionately impacting Latinos: “The spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus, is very serious,” he said. “It is impacting especially Hispanic communities across the entire state of Texas.”
In light of illness spikes, took took another measure on Thursday in an attempt to stem the coronavirus tide. To that end, he the governor issued a proclamation suspending elective surgeries in hospitals in all counties located within 11 Trauma Service Areas (TSAs) in Texas. Previously, Governor Abbott suspended elective surgeries at hospitals in the counties of Bexar, Cameron, Dallas, Harris, Hidalgo, Nueces, Travis and Webb.
"The State of Texas continues to implement strategies to help ensure ample supply of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients," Abbott said. "By expanding this directive to include the counties within these 11 TSAs, we are freeing up more resources to address upticks in COVID-19 related cases. The State of Texas will continue to do everything we can to mitigate the spread of this virus and support our hospitals and health care professionals as they care for their fellow Texans. We must all come together and continue to practice social distancing, wear a face covering in public, and stay home when possible."
Under the gubernatorial proclamation, the governor directs all hospitals in these counties to postpone surgeries and procedures that are not immediately necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician, he explained in an advisory.
Through the proclamation, the governor can add or subtract from the list of counties included in his original executive order and subsequent proclamations to address surges in hospitalizations that may arise in other parts of the state, he explained.
The following counties are included in the governor's proclamation:
All counties within TSA J: Andrews, Brewster, Crane, Ector, Glasscock, Howard, Jeff Davis, Loving, Martin, Midland, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Terrell, Upton, Ward and Winkler counties.
All counties within TSA K—Coke, Concho, Crockett, Irion, Kimble, Mason, McCulloch, Menard, Reagan, Runnels, Schleicher, Sterling, Sutton and Tom Green counties.
All counties within TSA M—Bosque, Falls, Hill, Limestone and McLennan counties.
All counties within TSA O that are not already covered by Executive Order GA-27—Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, San Saba and Williamson counties.
All counties within TSA P that are not already covered by Executive Order GA-27—Atascosa, Bandera, Comal, Dimmit, Edwards, Frio, Gillespie, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Kinney, La Salle, Maverick, Medina, Real, Uvalde, Val Verde, Wilson and Zavala counties.
All counties within TSA Q that are not already covered by Executive Order GA-27—Austin, Colorado, Fort Bend, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller and Wharton counties.
All counties within TSA R—Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton and Orange counties.
All counties within TSA S—Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca, and Victoria counties.
All counties within TSA T that are not already covered by Executive Order GA-27—Jim Hogg and Zapata counties.
All counties within TSA U that are not already covered by Executive Order GA-27—Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Duval, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, McMullen, Refugio, and San Patricio counties.
All counties within TSA V that are not already covered by Executive Order GA-27—Starr and Willacy counties.
Texas is divided into twenty-two regions called trauma service areas (TSAs), provided for the formation of a regional advisory council (RAC) in each region to develop and implement a regional trauma system plan, delineated the trauma facility designation process, and provided for the development of a state trauma registry.
For more information about TSAs, visit the Texas Department of State Health Services website.
The expanded ban on elective medical procedures is the latest step Abbott has taken in recent days to help lessen the spread of illness. In a development that took many by surprise last week, Abbott reversed his previous stance of not requiring residents to wear protective face coverings to avert the spread of disease. He issued an executive order that mandated mask-wearing, and banned all elective surgeries and medical procedures to make hospital space available for a potential influx of new coronavirus patients. He also granted municipalities greater authority in limiting the size of crowds.
Despite his reversal on the wearing of fabric face coverings — and in spite of the worrisome illness increases — the governor maintained his mask-wearing exemption for those attending church services or voting in the upcoming primary runoff elections. "Your constitutional rights are not voided simply because of a pandemic," Abbott reasoned during an interview with KBTX in Bryan, Texas.
In light of the illness tide, Abbott now aggressively recommends the wearing of masks in a departure from his preference to make their use voluntary as guided by residents' "individual responsibility," as he often said in the past. In issuing his June 23 executive order now mandating their use, he said: "Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19. We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another — and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces."
The governor in recent days has taken other measures to stem the swelling tide of illness across the state — including scaling back on his own economic reopening. Abbott was the nation's second governor to reopen his state's economy as other states were waiting for the illness trend to flatten before allowing businesses to reopen — insisting his multi-phased reopening plan would be guided by "doctors and data." Georgia was the first state in the nation to attempt an economic jumpstart a week before Texas launched its version on May 1.
Ahead of the July 4 holiday, Abbott ordered all bars to close up again, along with tubing and rafting operations. The closures were ordered given logistical challenges in both areas to practice physical distancing.
The Texas counties with the highest concentrations of illness are:
Harris: 40,012 cases.
Dallas: 29,160 cases.
Bexar: 16,725 cases.
Tarrant: 16,180 cases.
Travis: 13,161 cases.
El Paso: 8,385 cases.
Hidalgo: 5,782 cases.
Nueces: 4,917 cases.
Fort Bend: 4,413 cases.
Collin: 3,948 cases.
Denton: 3,582 cases.
Williamson: 3,442 cases.
Hays: 3,328 cases.
Jefferson: 3,235 cases.
Lubbock: 3,231 cases.
Brazoria: 3,146 cases.
Cameron: 3,120 cases.