Texas reports record number of new covid-19 cases and deaths

Texas reported 171 new deaths in a 24-hour period, bringing the historic total to 20,467. The state also reported a record number of 12,597 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, bringing the cumulative total since the onset of illness to 1,085,524.

The data are input in a statistical dashboard maintained by the Texas Department of State Health Services. The new single-day high is 304 more newly confirmed cases than the previous record of 12,293 set n Thursday. The dashboard also shows 158,383 active cases, with an estimated 909,137 recoveries.

In addition to the 12,597 new cases reported on Saturday, state officials reported 229 older cases recently reported by labs in a number of counties from Brazoria to Zavala, the most emerging in Harris County (86) and El Paso (55). Dallas County also reported a single-day high, with 2,183 cases there alone.

Despite the soaring rates of illness, Gov. Greg Abbott has said he has no plans to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order. Illness spikes have been registered since Abbott allowed bars to reopen, albeit at 50 percent capacity per an Oct. 7 executive order. Even as other businesses reopen at limited capacity, bars had long remained closed until the governor’s order given the often-tight quarters at such establishments where patrons often socialize in proximity of each other for extended periods of time.

Texas became the first state to reach, and simultaneously surpass, the 1-million mark of cumulative cases of coronavirus a week ago.

Across Texas, officials have responded to bolstered reaches of the coronavirus in varying degrees of urgency. In Austin, health officials moved to the penultimate orange-coded alert level which limits crowd sizes to no more than 10 among healthy people and no greater than two among the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. According to the dashboard, Travis County of which Austin is the capital is ranked 7th among counties with the greatest number of cumulative coronavirus cases, with 35,984 cases logged to date.

To help further blunt the spread of illness, health district officials took the extra step of devising a quiz for residents designed to assess levels of precaution. Officials dubbed the quiz “Spread Joy, Not Germs.” The quiz is applicable statewide as a safety checklist, not just to those living in Travis County.

Just north of Austin in Williamson County, health district officials went to the top red alert signifying uncontrolled community spread of illness. But even then, county judge Bill Gravell has opted to defer to the governor in not implementing a shelter-in-place order. The state dashboard now ranks Williamson County 19th statewide in the number of historical cases of respiratory illness, with 11,559 cases to date. To date, 163 have died of the illness in Williamson County — an area with a population of 590,551 — ranking the region in the top 25 counties statewide with the number of cumulative fatalities, as calculated by state health officials.

Even as Williamson County health district officials moved the region to the most critical red-alert status, Gravell issued a separate statement reminding residents of the voluntary nature of taking precautions: “The guidelines are suggested for planning, but are not requirements,” he wrote. “Local guidance may be superseded by an executive order from Governor Abbott.”

The Williamson County judge downplayed the move to red as mere reminder: “The increasing transmission rate and movement into the WCCHD [Williamson County and Cities Health District] red phase is a great opportunity to remind people during this Thanksgiving season to wear a mask, wash hands frequently, and keep six feet of distance from others not in your household,”he wrote. “While the number of cases has increased, other indicators, such as the hospitalization rate for our region, are below Governor Abbott’s threshold for adopting more stringent guidelines under Executive Order GA-32. Personal protective measures are the best way to keep ourselves and those we care about safe.”

During a Williamson County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday, the president and CEO of the regional blood bank named We Are Blood, Marshall Cothran, made a presentation on the convalescent plasma program as it relates to coronavirus patients. Gravell interrupted the blood bank official as he began to discuss rising hospitalization rates due to coronavirus impacting Williamson County.

“You know, Marshall, let me say this: I don’t want you to get into that because I don’t agree with you on that. Let’s just stick to the convalescent plasma discussion.” The exchange can be seen at the 12:25 mark of the recorded Williamson County Commissioners Court meeting.

In April, Gravell was caught violating his own since-suspended shelter-in-place order when he was photographed attending a grandson’s birthday party while donning firefighter gear borrowed from an area fire department. The social outing was in violation of a Williamson County stay-at-home order Gravell personally signed in late March that have since been extended to April 30, compelling residents to stay indoors amid the spread of COVID-19.

To further compel residents’ adherence to the order, punitive measures aimed at violators were attached — a $1,000 fine or up to six months in jail, according to the order. Such physical distancing guidelines are meant to blunt the spread of respiratory illness.

According to the state dashboard, the 20 counties with the highest number of cumulative cases are:

  • Harris County: 179,911.
  • Dallas County: 115,410.
  • El Paso County: 80,291.
  • Tarrant County: 78,909.
  • Bexar County: 60,372.
  • Hidalgo County: 40,085.
  • Travis County: 35,984.
  • Lubbock County: 28,134.
  • Cameron County: 25,507.
  • Collin County: 22,691.
  • Fort Bend County: 19,223.
  • Webb County: 18,369.
  • Denton County: 18,141.
  • Nueces County: 17,132.
  • Montgomery County: 14,815.
  • Galveston County: 14,020.
  • Brazoria County: 13,722.
  • McLennan County: 13,156.
  • Williamson County: 11,559.
  • Potter County: 11,521.

The top 25 counties with the most number of fatalities to date, according to the state dashboard, are:

  • Harris County: 2,964.
  • Hidalgo County: 1,800.
  • Bexar County: 1,473.
  • Dallas County: 1,463.
  • Cameron County: 1,004.
  • Tarrant County: 982.
  • El Paso County: 949.
  • Travis County: 466.
  • Nueces County: 421.
  • Webb County: 370.
  • Fort Bend County: 325.
  • Lubbock County: 300.
  • Collin County: 238.
  • Montgomery County: 202.
  • Denton County: 200.
  • Brazoria County: 194.
  • Smith County: 188.
  • Starr County: 187.
  • Galveston County: 178.
  • McLennan County: 175.
  • Jefferson County: 172.
  • Maverick County: 169.
  • Williamson County: 163.
  • Val Verde County: 138.
  • Potter County: 137.

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