State Responds to Rising COVID-19 Case Counts

Since June, Texas has continued to see an increase in the number of daily coronavirus cases, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The department tracks confirmed case counts by county, and the information is available on the DSHS dashboard.

July 27, 2020

Legislative News

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Since June, Texas has continued to see an increase in the number of daily coronavirus cases, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The department tracks confirmed case counts by county, and the information is available on the DSHS dashboard. In response to the statewide surge, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide mask requirement earlier this month. In his July 2 video message, he emphasized: “COVID-19 is not going away. In fact, it’s getting worse. Now, more than ever, action by everyone is needed until treatments are available for COVID-19.”
 
The statewide mask order, effective at 12:01 p.m. July 3, requires a face covering while in a business open to the public and in outdoor public spaces when social distancing is not possible. However, the order lists several exceptions. Counties with 20 or fewer active cases can opt out if the county judge submits an application to the Texas Division of Emergency Management. The order also bans certain outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people unless the mayor or county judge approves of the gathering.

Early Voting Period Extended

On July 27, Gov. Abbott extended the early voting period for the Nov. 3rd election by six days. Early voting in person will begin on Oct. 13 and continue through Oct. 30. In addition, the order extends the period whereby mail-in ballots can be hand delivered to the elections office. The deadline for a mail-in ballot to be received, not postmarked, is Oct. 23.

Capacity Priorities

The number of patients hospitalized with the illness doubled in June, and many hospitals reported that intensive care unit beds were at or near capacity. Texas is experiencing different hot spots as more areas of the state are seeing major virus outbreaks. Outbreaks are no longer contained to large plants or prison units but are stemming more recently from community spread. Abbott has responded by sending federal resources to the Houston region and suspending elective surgeries in all counties within 11 trauma service areas to help ensure an ample supply of hospital beds. Elective surgeries had been suspended in late June for Bexar, Cameron, Dallas, Harris, Hidalgo, Nueces, Travis and Webb counties.

Regions in Crisis

The Rio Grande Valley in South Texas has been hit extremely hard and has experienced an alarming spread of infections and record high hospitalization numbers. The state response began with the launching of a surge testing site in Edinburg, and most recently Abbott announced that five Navy teams were sent to provide medical support to hospitals in Harlingen and Rio Grande City and westward to Eagle Pass and Del Rio. Earlier this month, he again extended the state’s disaster declaration for all 254 counties.
 
The most recent executive orders were announced before a big summer holiday weekend when crowds tend to gather outdoors. Four weeks ago, statewide coronavirus cases had not yet surged to alarming levels as they have toward the end of July. Summer has just begun so it remains to be seen whether more infections will follow or regional attempts to flatten the curve have worked.
 
The complete and latest checklist of open services and activities and the effective dates can be found on the governor's Open Texas webpage. For more information on the content of this article, email Aurora Flores.