Daily Updates – COVID-19

July 7, 2020

Though he often has pointed to the state's relatively low death rate as a bit of good news in the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday warned that deaths from COVID-19 are likely to increase over the next several weeks as the number of cases and hospitalizations continue to reach record levels in Texas. "My concern is that we may see greater fatalities going forward as we go into the middle part of July," Abbott said in an interview with KDFW-TV in Dallas.

Texas reported 60 deaths from COVID-19 today, a daily record that brings the total number of deaths since July 1 to 291. Given the typical four- to five-week lag between infection and death, many of the people who died over the past week likely contracted COVID-19 in late May or early June.

Which is foreboding for July. The state posted 1,949 new COVID-19 cases on May 31, a record-high at the time. Texas hit a new record today, with 10,028 new cases. The state has confirmed 50,599 cases just since July 1.

How Much Will the Death Toll Rise? Abbott's interview came as several major media outlets such as The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times recently have explored whether the number of deaths soon will match the soaring number of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in Texas, California, Arizona, Florida and elsewhere.

COVID-19 killed fewer people each day in June than it did in April and May as doctors have developed more effective treatment protocols and younger people who are more likely to survive the disease are making up a larger percentage of hospitalized patients. Texas recorded nearly three times the number of coronavirus cases in June as it did in May — 95,699 compared with 36,200, according to state data. Yet the number of deaths fell from 890 in May to 752 in June.

Still, because of the lag between infection and death, government officials like Abbott and health experts around the country are worried that a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 deaths is on its way.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Today's 10,028 new cases brings the statewide total to 210,585 since the state's first positive test was reported March 4, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The total number of deaths is now 2,715.

At least one case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in 246 of Texas' 254 counties. Twenty-one counties have confirmed at least 2,500 total cases.

There currently are 9,286 coronavirus patients in Texas hospitals -- an all-time high for the 25th time over the past 26 days. Hospitalizations are up 34.5% just since July 1.

The state reported that 12,925 hospital beds are available statewide, with 1,148 available ICU beds. Hospital beds and the need for them aren't evenly distributed throughout the state, of course. Public health officials say a spike in new cases potentially threatens the ability of hospitals in some parts of the state to deal with an influx of new patients.

The rate at which coronavirus tests in Texas are coming back positive also alarms health officials. As of Monday, the state's rolling seven-day average positivity rate was 13.5%. The positivity rate has been above 13% for the past 11 days. Experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely. A high rate indicates an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from an increase in testing.

Nationally, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported Jan. 22. Since then, 2,932,596 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 130,133 have died, an increase of 46,329 cases and 322 deaths from Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Confirmed cases are on the rise in 41 states plus the District of Columbia, and the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is increasing in 39 states, The Associated Press reported.

Coronavirus Cancels State Fair. Organizers canceled the State Fair of Texas Tuesday, citing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, The Dallas Morning News reported. It's the fair's first cancellation since World War II.

"In the current climate of COVID-19, there is no feasible way for the Fair to put proper precautions in place while maintaining the Fair environment you know and love," Gina Norris, board chair for the State Fair of Texas, said in a statement. "While we cannot predict what the COVID-19 pandemic will look like in September, the recent surge in positive cases is troubling for all of North Texas. The safest and most responsible decision we could make for all involved at this point in our 134-year history is to take a hiatus for the 2020 season."

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


July 6, 2020

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas again reached record levels over the three-day Fourth of July weekend, deepening concerns that hospitals and intensive care units in several cities could soon run out of space. The trend continued today. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported that 8,698 coronavirus patients were in Texas hospitals on Monday, setting an all-time high for the 24th time over the past 25 days. Hospitalizations are up 26% just since July 1.

The state reported that 12,852 hospital beds currently are available statewide, with 1,226 available ICU beds. Hospital beds and the need for them aren't evenly distributed throughout the state, of course. Public health officials say a spike in new cases potentially threatens the ability of hospitals in certain regions, like those in the Rio Grande Valley, to deal with an influx of new patients.

The rate at which coronavirus tests in Texas are coming back positive also alarms public health officials. As of Sunday, the state's rolling seven-day average positivity rate was 13.5%. The positivity rate has been above 13% for the past 10 days. Experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely. A high rate indicates an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from an increase in testing.

The state reported 5,318 new cases today, two days after posting a record-high 8,258 new cases on Saturday. Mondays typically have seen fewer cases than the rest of any given week because of a weekend lag in reporting.
With today's new case count, Texas now has confirmed more than 200,000 total cases of COVID-19 – 200,557, according to State Health Services – since the state's first positive test was reported March 4. The state also reported 18 new deaths today, bringing the total number to 2,655.

At least one case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in 247 of Texas' 254 counties. Eighteen counties have confirmed at least 2,500 total cases.

Nationally, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported Jan. 22. Since then, 2,886,267 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 129,811 have died, an increase of 44,361 cases and 235 deaths from Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal Business Loans. More than 650,000 businesses, including 51,250 in Texas, received forgivable loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced today. The program was established by the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to preserve jobs at smaller businesses as states shut down this spring to curb the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The federal government said it has handed out $521 billion through the program, The Associated Press reported. The average loan amount is $107,000 nationally. How many jobs were saved won’t be known until companies apply to have the loans forgiven.

Some 6,300 Texas-based companies received loans valued at more than $1 million, The Texas Tribune reported. Nearly 400 Texas companies received between $5 million and $10 million.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


July 2, 2020

Worries abound among state and local officials that the three-day Fourth of July holiday weekend will spark an even-greater increase in COVID-19 cases that pushes hospitals past their limits and puts containment of the coronavirus out of reach. The number of cases and hospitalizations in Texas have gone up at an alarming rate since the Memorial Day holiday weekend six weeks ago.

In response, Gov. Greg Abbott today issued an executive order requiring Texans in counties with at least 20 COVID-19 cases to wear a face covering in public. He also banned some outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people unless county judges or mayors approve an exception. Meanwhile, many counties and cities across the state have canceled fireworks displays, closed parks for the weekend and encouraged residents to stay home in response to the state's coronavirus surge.

The moves follow a record-setting 8,076 new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday by the Texas Department of State Health Services. The number of daily new cases today was 161 cases lower – 7,915 – but Texas has now has confirmed 44,060 new cases over the past seven days, representing 25% of the 175,977 total cases confirmed statewide since the first positive test was reported in Texas on March 4. The state also reported 44 new deaths today, bringing the total number to 2,525.

There were 7,382 coronavirus patients reported in Texas hospitals today, setting an all-time high for the 20th time over the past 21 days. Hospitalizations have increased more than fourfold since June 1.

State Health Services reported 11,983 hospital beds available statewide, with 1,181 available ICU beds. Hospital beds and the need for them aren't evenly distributed throughout the state, of course. Public health officials say a spike in new cases potentially threatens the ability of hospitals in certain regions to deal with an influx of new patients, but as The Texas Tribune reported today, getting information on which hospitals are hardest hit is nearly impossible. The state refuses to release the data and few hospitals do so on their own.

In addition to hospitalizations, the state's positivity rate – a measure of the ratio of coronavirus tests that come back positive based on a rolling seven-day average – is another cause of alarm among public health officials. As of Wednesday, the statewide positivity rate was 13.3%.

The state's positivity rate has been above 10% since June 23, the longest sustained streak since mid-April. Experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely. A high rate indicates an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from an increase in testing.

Nationally, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported Jan. 22. Since then, 2,679,230 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 128,024 have died, an increase of 54,357 cases and 725 deaths from Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cases Rise in Day Care Centers. Texas day care facilities are seeing big increases in new coronavirus cases, The Texas Tribune reported. As of Tuesday, there were 950 reported COVID-19 cases at 668 child care locations statewide. The count includes 307 children and 643 staff members. Total reported child care cases rose from 59 in mid-May to 576 on June 23, causing the state to reintroduce emergency regulations on June 25 that it had repealed only a couple of weeks earlier.

New Data Visualization Tools. The Harvard Global Health Institute released a new risk-assessment map Wednesday that lets users see how severe the coronavirus pandemic is in their state and county. Four colors – green, yellow, orange and red – illustrate risk levels based on the number of new COVID-19 cases each day per 100,000 people over a seven-day moving average.

The statewide risk level in Texas is currently orange, with 18.8 new cases per 100,000 people. Twenty-three Texas counties, led by Brewster (71.4 cases per 100,000 people), Hays (54.3) and Starr (51.3) counties, are rated red.

Another new data visualization tool – this one created by the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health -- combines the number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths reported each day in each state with the dates each state implemented reopening policies.

Jobless Claims. The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week fell to 1.43 million, the U.S. Labor Department reported today. Claims were down 55,000 from the week before, the 13th straight drop since applications hit a record 6.9 million in late March. According to the latest available data from the Labor Department, 31.5 million people were receiving unemployment benefits during the week that ended June 13, an increase of 916,722 from the previous week.

In Texas, 96,141 people filed for unemployment during the week ended June 27, an increase of 6,594 applications from the week before. About 2.7 million Texans have sought jobless benefits since mid-March.

Unemployment Rate. In addition to the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims report, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that the unemployment rate fell to 11.1% in June, the second monthly decline from a peak of 14.7% in April. Employers added 4.8 million jobs last month, the bureau reported, as economic activity continued to resume around the country.

The report was based on a survey completed in mid-June, however. COVID-19 cases in Texas have tripled since then, forcing Gov. Greg Abbott to pause his phased plan to reopen the state's economy and reverse course on opening bars and expanding restaurant capacity. Coronavirus cases also are spiking in Arizona, California, Florida and numerous other states, prompting new business closures and threatening the economy's recovery.

Closing Bars. Gov. Abbott isn't the only official to have ordered bars closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Other governors as well as county and city leaders nationwide have taken similar action recently as clusters of COVID-19 cases have been traced back to various drinking establishments. Science supports the decisions, The Associated Press reports.

Several factors make bars potential COVID-19 flashpoints, AP reported, citing infectious disease experts. Crowded indoor spaces are filled with people talking loudly and leaning close to hear one another. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, so people forget precautions. It's difficult to disinfect surfaces in a bar enough to make a difference. The experts’ conclusion: Going to a bar isn't worth the risk.

A group of bar owners in Texas have sued Abbott and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, arguing that the governor's order unfairly singles them out and violates the Texas Constitution.

Medicaid Funding Increase for Hospitals. Gov. Abbott and the Texas Health and Human Services Commissions announced today that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved $2.67 billion in federal funding for the state's 2021 fiscal year to support Texas hospitals that provide care for people receiving Medicaid. The funding is a $1.07 billion increase from the previous fiscal year.

"This federal funding is a crucial source of support for Texas hospitals that provide care for Medicaid patients," Abbott said in a press release. "As we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State is committed to ensuring that our hospitals have the resources they need to continue providing care to Texans across the state."

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.



July 1, 2020

Texas began July where it ended June, with another record number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 8,076 new COVID-19 cases today, more than 1,100 new cases above Tuesday's record high. Texas has confirmed 42,141 new coronavirus cases over the past seven days, representing 25% of the 168,062 total cases confirmed statewide since the first positive test was reported in Texas on March 4. The state also reported 57 new deaths Tuesday, bringing the total number to 2,481.

At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 244 of Texas' 254 counties; 21 counties have reported more than 2,000 total cases.

There were 6,904 coronavirus patients reported in Texas hospitals today, setting an all-time high for the 19th time over the past 20 days. Hospitalizations have increased fourfold since June 1.

State Health Services reported 12,894 hospital beds available statewide, with 1,322 available ICU beds. Hospital beds and the need for them aren't evenly distributed throughout the state, of course. Public health officials say a spike in new cases potentially threatens the ability of hospitals in certain regions, like those in Harris County, to deal with an influx of new patients.

In addition to hospitalizations, the state's positivity rate – a measure of the ratio of coronavirus tests that come back positive based on a rolling seven-day average – is another cause of alarm among public health officials. As of Tuesday, the statewide positivity rate was 13.6%.

The state's positivity rate has been above 10% since June 23, the longest sustained streak since mid-April. Experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely. A high rate indicates an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from an increase in testing.

Nationally, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported Jan. 22. Since then, 2,624,873 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 127,299 have died, an increase of 43,644 cases and 560 deaths from Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Daily new coronavirus infections nationwide are double what they were averaging in early June. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned U.S. senators on Tuesday that the country could see new cases reach 100,000 a day if trends continue and behaviors toward wearing masks and social distancing don't improve.

Sales Tax Revenue. The amount of sales tax revenue Texas collected in June totaled $2.67 billion, a 6.5% fall from the amount collected in June 2019, Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced today.

Most of the sales tax revenue collected in June is based on sales made in May, when the state began a phased reopening of the Texas economy, which had been largely shut down to curb the spread of COVID-19. Sales tax revenue over April, May and June was down 9.7% compared with the same three months last year, Hegar reported, reflecting the pandemic's effect.

Big declines in the oil and gas, construction and amusement service sectors drove the drop in sales tax collections, Hegar said.

"While collections from restaurants also were depressed, the extent of the decline was checked by increased takeout and delivery sales," the comptroller added. "Retail trade receipts rose significantly, buoyed by increased online shopping and building material purchases, as business premises were modified for COVID-19 precautions."

Hegar's revised revenue estimate for the state budget is expected later this month. Sales taxes account for 57% of all tax revenue collected by the state.

Public Health Spending Cuts. A nationwide investigation by The Associated Press and Kaiser Health News has found that spending for state and local public health departments has fallen significantly since 2010. As a result, at least 38,000 public health jobs have disappeared over the past decade, compromising the public health system's ability to confront the coronavirus pandemic.

More than three-quarters of Americans live in states that spend less than $100 per person annually on public health, the investigation found. Spending ranges from $32 per person in Louisiana to $263 in Delaware. Texas spends $69 per person.

COVID-19 Testing at Juvenile Facilities. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department said today it will begin mass testing of about 700 detainees and 1,700 employees at its five lockups after 17 youths tested positive for COVID-19, The Texas Tribune reported. The department said it will use the same self-administered oral tests used to conduct mass testing by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Nursing Facility Infection Control. Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission have announced that $9 million in federal funding is available to help nursing facilities pay for COVID-19 infection control projects. Providers can find application details on the Health and Human Services website.

"We know that older Texans are more susceptible to COVID-19, and Texas is committed to ensuring that nursing facilities have the tools they need to keep their residents and staff safe," Abbott said in a statement.

Around the State. In other COVID-19 developments:

  • Gov. Abbott's office has released a public service video featuring Hall of Fame baseball catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez encouraging Texans to wear a mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19. The video, which is available in both English and Spanish, is the latest in a series of similar announcements featuring Texas celebrities and sports stars.
  • Orange County Judge John Gothia says he has tested positive for COVID-19, the County Record reported Tuesday. The number of COVID-19 cases in Orange County more than doubled in June, from 98 confirmed cases on May 28 to 212 on June 30.
  • El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego issued an executive order on Tuesday prohibiting all public outdoor gatherings in El Paso County's unincorporated areas until after the Fourth of July weekend, KFOX-TV reported. Violators will face a possible fine up to $500.
  • Harris County has extended its COVID-19 disaster declaration until Aug. 26, the Houston Chronicle reported. The decision allows County Judge Lina Hidalgo to keep the mask order for businesses that she issued June 19 in place until then, too.
  • Fort Bend County has extended it COVID-19 disaster declaration and County Judge KP George's mask order for businesses through July 31, the Houston Press reported.
  • Smith County reported 52 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, setting a new daily record, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported. The county reported two-thirds – 418 – of its total 618 coronavirus cases in June.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 30, 2020

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott suspended elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties to preserve bed space for COVID-19 patients. Today, he added four more counties to the order: Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces and Webb.

Daily hospitalizations statewide for COVID-19 have almost quadrupled since June 1. There were 6,533 coronavirus patients reported in Texas hospitals today, setting a 18th all-time high over the past 19 days. While the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 13,711 hospital beds available statewide, with 1,405 available ICU beds, hospital beds and the need for them aren’t evenly distributed throughout the state. A spike in new cases potentially threatens the ability of hospitals in certain regions to deal with an influx of new patients.

"As these counties experience a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are committed to working alongside hospitals to help ensure that every COVID-19 patient who needs a bed will have access to one," Abbott said in a statement announcing the addition of the four South Texas counties to his hospital order.

COVID-19 Case Counts. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 6,975 new COVID-19 cases today, a record high by nearly 1,000 cases. Texas has confirmed 45,105 new cases of COVID-19 the past eight days, representing more than a quarter – 28.2% -- of the 159,986 total cases confirmed statewide since the first positive test was reported in Texas on March 4. Almost 100,000 new cases – 95,699 – were reported in June alone. There have been 2,424 total deaths: 21 new deaths were reported Monday.

At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 244 of Texas' 254 counties; 25 counties have had more than 1,000 total cases.

In addition to hospitalizations, the state's positivity rate – a measure of the ratio of coronavirus tests that come back positive based on a rolling seven-day average – is another cause of alarm among public health officials. As of Monday, the statewide positivity rate was 14%, the second highest it’s ever been after Saturday's record high 14.3%. Experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely. A high rate indicates an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 separate from an increase in testing.

Nationally, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported Jan. 22. Since then, 2,581,229 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 126,739 have died, an increase of 35,664 cases and 370 deaths from Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bar Closures Prompt Lawsuit. A group of bar owners and private citizens have filed a lawsuit seeking to block the executive order Gov. Abbott issued Friday that closes bars and reduces occupancy limits from 75% to 50%, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Filed in Travis County District Court by Houston lawyer Jared Woodfill, the lawsuit argues that Abbott's order is unconstitutional and arbitrarily picks winners and losers.

Work-Search Requirement. The Texas Workforce Commission has postponed plans to reinstate the requirement that unemployed Texans be actively searching for a job to collect their jobless benefits, The Texas Tribune reported today. The commission cited the state's rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and Gov. Abbott's order last week reversing course on some parts of his plan to reopen Texas businesses as reasons for the delay.

Texas Supreme Court Amends Order. The Texas Supreme Court issued a new emergency order to help lower the risk of spreading COVID-19 in Texas courts. The order renews and amends provisions contained in a previous emergency order dated May 26. Among other things, it continues to authorize remote proceedings and extends the deadlines in child-protection cases, for limited jury proceedings, and for various filings and service procedures.

Application for Food Benefit Extended. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has extended the application deadline for the federal Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer program (P-EBT) to July 31. P-EBT is a temporary food benefit available to families with children who lost access to free or reduced-price meals when schools closed. "The extension of the P-EBT deadline helps ensure that Texans have time to apply for this program and provide nutritious food to their families as the state continues to combat COVID-19," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. "Ensuring access to healthy food in our communities is an important part of our response to this pandemic."

A Call for Teamwork. Gov. Abbott's office has released a public service video featuring University of Texas head football coach Tom Herman encouraging Texans to wear masks, wash their hands and practice social distancing. Titled "The Power of Teamwork," the video is the latest in a series of similar announcements promoting a common effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


June 29, 2020

Early voting for Texas' July 14 primary runoffs for congressional, legislative and local offices began today and runs through July 10. A Democratic runoff between Dallas state Sen. Royce West and MJ Hegar, a retired Air Force pilot and Afghanistan war veteran, is on the ballot statewide. The winner runs against Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in November.

The runoff elections were originally scheduled for May 26, but Gov. Greg Abbott postponed them until mid-July and extended early voting by a week because of the coronavirus pandemic. The elections are being portrayed in news reports and by election officials as a test run for November's general election.

The runoffs begin as Texas is experiencing record-high COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, which have forced Abbott to reverse parts of his plan to reopen the state's economy and put on hold any further loosening of restrictions on businesses. Local election officials have implemented measures to try to protect voters and poll workers from infection. "We're saying our prayers," Jacque Callanen, Bexar County's election administrator, told The Texas Tribune. "With this spike in numbers, I’m praying our good ol' election officials are going to hang in there with us."

State and federal court decisions so far have blocked attempts to expand the use of voting by mail in Texas during the coronavirus pandemic.

'Swift and Dangerous.' Gov. Abbott said "COVID-19 has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks" after meeting with Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday in Dallas, The Dallas Morning-News reported. Pence, who chairs the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was in Texas to attend an event at First Baptist Dallas and discuss the COVID-19 outbreak in Texas with state officials and medical experts. He said the Trump administration was committed to giving Texas the resources it needs "to meet this moment"

COVID-19 Case Counts. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 5,357 new COVID-19 cases Sunday. Texas has confirmed 33,842 new cases of COVID-19 the past six days, representing 22.7% -- more than 1 in 5 -- of the 148,723 total cases confirmed statewide since the state's first positive test was reported March 4. There have been 2,393 total deaths in Texas: 27 new deaths were reported Sunday. At least one case has been confirmed in 244 of Texas' 254 counties; 25 counties have had more than 1,000 total cases.

There were 5,497 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals as of Sunday, a slight decline from the day before and the first time since June 11 that the number of hospitalizations didn’t set a new all-time high. While there were 12,751 hospital beds reported available statewide, with 1,355 available ICU beds, public health experts say an increase in hospitalizations could mean more people are becoming seriously ill, potentially threatening the ability of hospitals like the hospitals in Harris County to deal with an influx of new patients.

The state's positivity rate – a measure of the ratio of coronavirus tests that come back positive based on a rolling seven-day average – is another cause of alarm among public health officials. As of Saturday, the statewide positivity rate was 14.3%, a record high and up from 5.4% on June 1. A rise in the positivity rate could mean an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 separate from an increase in testing. Experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

The state's health agency usually updates Texas' COVID-19 case counts each day by 4 p.m.

Nationally, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported Jan. 22. Since then, 2,545,250 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 126,369 have died, an increase of 41,075 cases and 885 deaths from Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 26, 2020

Faced with record-high COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations across Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott today ordered bars to close and restaurants to scale back their occupancy limits from 75% to 50%. He also ordered rafting and tubing businesses to close as part of "targeted, measured directives" aimed at businesses and services he said were linked to the state's alarming rise in new coronavirus cases.

Hospitalizations in Texas have gone up almost 200% since June 1. And the state's positivity rate is trending above 10% -- a level Abbott previously said would be a "warning flag" for Texas.

"As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose about 10%, the State of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Abbott said in a statement announcing today's executive order. "At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars. The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and enhance public health."

A Week of Greater Urgency. Abbott’s announcement arrives just over three weeks after he implemented the third phase of his plan reopening Texas businesses on June 3. Since last week, when he let it be known that his reopening plan allows local governments to impose mask restrictions on businesses, Abbott's actions have become increasingly urgent. This week:

  • Abbott said during a news conference in Austin that the coronavirus was “spreading at an unacceptable rate” that might require “tougher actions,” though he described the possibility of another lockdown as “the last option.”
  • In interviews with local TV stations, he encouraged Texans to stay home.
  • He expanded the ability of county judges and mayors to limit the size of outdoor gatherings and directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to enact emergency COVID-19 rules for child care centers.
  • He issued an executive order suspending elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties to preserve bed space for COVID-19 patients.
  • He put any further loosening of COVID-19 restrictions on hold until the state can “corral” its coronavirus outbreak.

Harris County Reaches Worst Risk Level. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo today announced that she was moving the county to its worst threat level because of a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the Houston Chronicle reported. She urged residents to return to the same stay-at-home conditions of March and April, though she lacks the authority under Gov. Abbott’s reopening orders to reinstate a mandatory stay-at-home order.

This month, Hidalgo released a four-level, color-coded system for rating the threat that COVID-19 poses to the Houston area, which is experiencing one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country. She initially set Harris County's threat level at Level 2 (orange), defined as "significant uncontrolled community transmission." Today she moved it to Level 1 (red), defined as "severe uncontrolled community transmission."

COVID-19 Case Counts. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 5,707 new COVID-19 cases today, the fourth straight day the state has posted more than 5,000 new cases. The 73,337 new cases since June 1 are more than the state reported in March, April and May combined (64,287) and represent 53.3% of the 137,624 total cases confirmed statewide since the state's first positive test was reported March 4. There have been 2,324 deaths in Texas – 28 new deaths were reported today. At least one COVID-19 case has been reported in 244 of Texas' 254 counties; 25 counties have had more than 1,000 cases.

As of today, there are 5,102 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals -- a new record high for the 15th straight day. While there are 12,398 hospital beds reported available statewide, with 1,284 available ICU beds, public health experts say an increase in hospitalizations could mean more people are becoming seriously ill, potentially threatening the ability of hospitals like the hospitals in Harris County to deal with an influx of new patients.

Even hospitals in suburban and rural areas that so far have been spared large numbers of cases are seeing trouble on the horizon. "We can see the storm coming," John Henderson, president and CEO of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals, told the Los Angeles Times. Henderson said several of his group's member hospitals around Houston are being asked to take COVID-19 patients from medical centers in the city.

The state's positivity rate is another cause of alarm among public health officials. As of Thursday, the state's rolling seven-day average of positive viral tests was 11.7%, up from 5.4% on June 1 and the highest its been since April 17. A rise in the positivity rate could mean an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from an increase in testing. Experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

Nationally, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported Jan. 22. Since then, 2,374,282 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday and 121,809 have died, an increase of 37,667 cases and 692 deaths from Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal Testing Sites. The Trump administration will continue to fund federally supported community-based COVID-19 testing sites in Texas until mid-July, Gov. Abbott announced today. The federal government had planned to close the seven sites Tuesday, but granted a 14-day extension after members of Texas’ congressional delegation as well as state and local officials pressed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Federal Emergency Management Agency to keep the sites open.

Around the State. Other COVID-19 developments in Texas:

  • Thirteen detention officers in Cameron County jail facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, the Harlingen Valley Morning Star reported. In addition to the detention officers, the Cameron County Sheriff's Department said three deputies and five "civilian employees" have tested positive for COVID-19. Statewide, 608 jail inmates and 189 jail employees have tested positive for the virus as of Thursday, according to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
  • About two-thirds of the state's new cases the past two weeks have cropped up in Texas' 11 most populous counties, according to The Texas Tribune, but other counties are seeing record-setting rises, too. Smith County is East Texas, for example, reported 33 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, a new all-time high a day after reporting its previous record high, the Kilgore News Herald reported. Smith County has reported more than half of its total positive cases – 245 of 455 – since June 1, with a positivity rate of about 10%.
  • Brazoria County south of Houston reported a record-high 77 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, the Brazoria County Facts reported. Pearland reported the most new cases – 25 – but County Judge Matt Sebesta said increasing numbers of cases are being seen throughout the county.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


June 25, 2020

Less than a week after the third phase of his plan to reboot the Texas economy took full effect, Gov. Greg Abbott announced today that he would not introduce the next reopening phase until the state can "corral" record-setting increases in new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. Current reopening rules for Texas businesses remain in place. In addition, Abbott issued an executive order suspending elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties to preserve bed space for COVID-19 patients.

The governor's executive order arrived as the Texas Medical Center in Houston reported that all of its intensive care beds were occupied, with 28% of ICU patients being treated for COVID-19. Typically, 70% to 80% of its ICU beds are occupied, the center said.

"As we experience an increase in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families," Abbott said in a statement announcing the reopening pause. "The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses."

The governor concluded his statement by asking, as he has done repeatedly the past few weeks, that "all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and socially distancing from others."

COVID-19 Case Counts. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 5,996 new COVID-19 cases today, another all-time high. Texas has reported more than 17,000 new cases the past three days and 58,154 new cases since June 1, representing 44% of the 131,917 total cases confirmed statewide since the state's first positive test was reported March 4. There have been 2,296 deaths in Texas -- 47 new deaths were reported today. At least one COVID-19 case has been reported in 243 of Texas' 254 counties; 25 counties have had more than 1,000 cases.

Hospitalizations have gone up 170% since June 1. There currently are 4,739 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals -- a new record high for the 14th straight day. While there were 12,597 hospital beds reported available statewide, with 1,322 available ICU beds, public health experts say an increase in hospitalizations could mean more people are becoming seriously ill, potentially threatening the ability of hospitals like those in Harris County to deal with an influx of new patients.

The state's positivity rate is another cause of alarm among public health officials. As of Wednesday, the state's seven-day rolling average of new cases was 11.8%, up from 5.4% on June 1 and the highest its been since April 17. A rise in the positivity rate could mean an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from increased testing. Experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely and Abbott previously has said a positivity rate of 10% or higher would be a "warning flag" for Texas.

Nationally, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported Jan. 22. Since then, 2,336,615 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday and 121,117 have died, an increase of 34,313 cases and 784 deaths from Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jobless Claims. The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week fell slightly to 1.48 million, the U.S. Labor Department reported today. Claims were down 60,000 from the week before, the 12th straight drop since applications hit a record 6.9 million in late March. According to the latest available data from the Labor Department, 30.6 million people were receiving unemployment benefits during the week that ended June 6.

In Texas, 89,241 people filed for unemployment during the week ended June 20, a decrease of 5,482 applications from the week before. Almost 2.6 million Texans have sought jobless benefits since mid-March.

A Lesson From Spring Break. Their spring break trip to Mexico infected 60 of them with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and provoked outrage in Austin and elsewhere, but as colleges prepare to restart this fall, the case study of a University of Texas group that traveled to Cabo San Lucas in March shows how easily the coronavirus spreads among college students, The Washington Post reported. The experience also shows how colleges and other institutions can contain outbreaks of COVID-19.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 24, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott has amended his June 3 executive order reopening Texas businesses to allow county judges and mayors to impose limits on outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people. Previously, counties and cities could place restrictions only on gatherings of more than 500 people. Abbott also has directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to enact emergency COVID-19 rules for child care centers less than two weeks after the commission repealed similar health and safety measures.

The governor's actions come as Texas continues to report record-high numbers of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. In a statement released Tuesday, Abbott pointed to large gatherings and child care centers as contributors to the increase and again urged Texans "to do everything in their power to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus by wearing a face mask, washing their hands often, and staying six-feet apart from others."

Earlier Tuesday, in an interview with KBTX-TV in Bryan, Abbott urged residents to stay home. He has described the possibility of another lockdown as "the last option," but as he acknowledged during a news conference Monday in Austin, if new cases and hospitalizations continue to spike it "would mean that we are in an urgent situation where tougher actions will be required."

Get a Test, Get a Free Mask. Though he has refused to order a statewide mandate, Gov. Abbott encourages Texans to wear masks in public. "I know some people think wearing a mask is inconvenient or an infringement on freedom, but I also know it will keep Texas open," he said Monday in Austin.

Today, Abbott's office announced today that starting Thursday, the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) will give four surgical masks to every Texan who gets a COVID-19 test at a state-run mobile test site. Texans can find a testing site near them by visiting TDEM’s COVID-19 test collection site map.

"Wearing a mask or facial covering in public is an effective way for Texans to protect themselves and others from the transmission of COVID-19. This program helps ensure that Texans have the resources they need to effectively mitigate the spread of this virus and keep themselves and their communities safe," Abbott said in a statement.

COVID-19 Case Counts. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 5,551 new COVID-19 cases today. Texas has now seen more than 11,000 new cases the past two days and has added 52,158 new cases just this month, representing 41.4% of the 125,921 total cases confirmed statewide since the state's first positive test was reported March 4. There have been 2,249 deaths.

Hospitalizations have gone up 150% since June 1. Today, the state reported that 4,389 COVID-19 patients are in Texas hospitals, setting a new all-time high for the 13th straight day. Public health experts say an increase in hospitalizations could mean more people are becoming seriously ill, potentially threatening the ability of hospitals to deal with an influx of new patients.

Based on today's data, 8.6% of patients with an active case of COVID-19 currently require hospitalization – a daily rate that has remained relatively steady for the past several weeks. Gov. Abbott has called the state's hospital capacity "abundant." There were 12,951 hospital beds reported available statewide today, with 1,320 available ICU beds. But regionally in Harris County and elsewhere, hospital officials have said that intensive care units are at or near capacity or trending toward capacity, The Texas Tribune reported.

In addition to hospitalizations, the state’s positivity rate is also setting off alarms with public health officials. As of Tuesday, the state's seven-day average positive test rate was 10.4%, up from 5.4% on June 1 and the highest its been since April 17. A rise in the positivity rate could mean an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from increased testing. Some experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely and Abbott previously has said a positivity rate of 10% would be a "red flag" for Texas.

Nationally, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported Jan. 22. Since then, 2,336,615 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 121,117 have died, an increase of 34,313 cases and 784 deaths from Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


June 23, 2020

With Texas reporting 5,489 new cases of COVID-19 today – shattering the previous record of 4,430 cases recorded Saturday – and with the number of hospitalizations hitting another all-time high, Gov. Greg Abbott told Texans in an interview with KBTX-TV in Bryan, "The safest place for you is at your home."

As he did during a news conference Monday in Austin and in a separate interview today with KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi, Abbott said the state was responding to the spikes in cases and hospitalizations and that shutting down the economy again would but the last option he would consider to curb the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Abbott again called on Texans voluntarily to wear masks or face coverings in public, wash and sanitize their hands and practice social distancing.

The record-setting number of new cases and hospitalizations has alarmed health officials. In an article by The Associated Press, Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, warned that hospitals in Harris County could be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in three weeks if admissions continue at their current pace. "It is snowballing. We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike," Boom said.

He urged people to wear masks and practice social distancing. "It is possible to open up at a judicious pace and coexist with the virus, but it requires millions and millions of people to do the right thing," Boom told AP.

In Dallas, researchers with UT Southwestern Medical Center held a news conference Monday to discuss a new study based on patient data from Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties that foresees a 20% increase in hospitalizations in North Texas by the Fourth of July, The Dallas Morning-News reported. "If the current path continues," the study says, "cases will grow significantly throughout the summer and autumn in the absence of increased adherence to recommended physical distancing guidelines (keeping 6 feet between people) and wide-spread use of masks."

New COVID-19 cases in North Texas have spiked in Texans aged 21-40, according to the UT Southwestern report. The number of Texans under 50 requiring hospital care also has increased. In June, 50% of hospitalized patients and 30% of ICU patients have been under 50, the study says.

Fauci Testifies. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told members of Congress today "that we are still in the middle of the first wave" of the COVID-18 pandemic. "Before you start talking about a second wave, what we'd like to do is get this outbreak under control," he said.

"The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states," Fauci said.

He was testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee along with Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Stephen Hahn, head of the Food and Drug Administration; and Adm. Brett Giroir, head of the U.S. Public Health Service.

COVID-19 Case Counts. As noted above, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 5,489 new COVID-19 cases today. Texas has reported 46,607 new cases since June 1 – 38.7% of the 120,370 total cases confirmed statewide since the state's first positive test was reported March 4. There have been 2,220 deaths.

Hospitalizations have more than doubled since June 1. The state reported today that 4,092 COVID-19 patients are currently in Texas hospitals, setting a new record high for the 12th straight day. Public health experts say an increase in hospitalizations could mean more people are becoming seriously ill, potentially threatening the ability of hospitals to deal with an influx of new patients.

The state's hospitalization rate has remained relatively steady, however. The current daily rate is 8.6%, based on available estimated data. And for now, Texas hospitals appear to have "abundant capacity," as Abbott described it Monday. There were 14,260 hospital beds reported available statewide today, with 1,483 available ICU beds.

But the state's positivity rate is trending in an alarming direction. As of Monday, the state's seven-day average positive test rate was 9.8%, up from 5.4% on June 1 and the highest its been since April 18. A rise in the positivity rate could mean an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from increased testing. Some experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported Jan. 22. Since then, 2,302,288 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 120,333 have died, an increase of 26,643 cases and 410 deaths from Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reopening Schools. It will cost the average school district about $1.8 million to make social distancing possible, The Associated Press reported, citing an estimate published by the School Superintendents Association and the Association of School Business Officials International. Many school districts nationwide, especially urban, under-resourced districts, are finding themselves overwhelmed by the potential expenses needed to reopen safely during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Texas public school districts are awaiting detailed guidance from the Texas Education Agency on how to safely reopen for in-person instruction in August. Draft documents found on the agency's website today envision few mandatory safety measures, The Texas Tribune reported this afternoon.

The Texas Tribune's report prompted TEA to respond with a statement: "These are draft documents. They were posted in the staging portion of the TEA website by mistake as part of an internal document review. As we continue to closely monitor the public health situation, we are, in fact, still soliciting feedback on this guidance. No final decisions have yet been made. Additional guidance will be provided soon."

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


June 22, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott held a news conference today in Austin to provide an update on the state's ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic. Since Memorial Day, Texas has been reporting record-high new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations, a reality Abbott readily acknowledged. "To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled," he said, adding later that if the increases continue, Texas might find itself facing "an urgent situation" that would require tougher actions.

But for now, the governor said the state has effective protocols in place and the ability to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from again shutting down the state's economy. Texans "don't have to choose between jobs and health," he said. "We can have both."

Abbott didn't announce any new measures. Instead, as he frequently has done, he encouraged Texans voluntarily to do their part: to wash their hands regularly, practice social distancing and wear a mask. "Wearing a mask will help us keep Texas open," Abbott said, directly addressing those Texans who equate wearing a mask with a loss of personal freedom.

COVID-19 Case Counts. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 3,280 new COVID-19 cases today after reporting the highest and second-highest number of new cases on Saturday and Sunday. Today's count represents six straight days of more than 3,000 new cases.

Two key metrics – the positivity rate and hospitalizations – continue to rise. The state reported today that 3,711 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized -- a record high for the 11th straight day.

Hospitalizations have more than doubled since June 1. Public health experts say an increase in hospitalizations could mean more people are becoming seriously ill, potentially threatening the ability of hospitals to deal with an influx of new patients.

The state's hospitalization rate, meanwhile, has remained relatively steady. The current daily rate is 8.5%, based on available data. And for now, Texas hospitals appear to have "abundant capacity," as Abbott described it today. There were 14,697 hospital beds reported available statewide today, with 1,517 available ICU beds.

But the state's positivity rate is trending in an alarming direction. As of Sunday, the state's seven-day average positive test rate was 9.5%, up from 5.4% on June 1. A rise in the positivity rate could mean an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from increased testing. Some experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

The Department of State Health Services has confirmed 114,881 total cases of COVID-19 statewide, with 2,192 deaths, since it reported Texas' first positive test for the coronavirus on March 4. As of today, 241 of Texas' 254 counties have reported at least one confirmed case of COVID-19; 22 counties have reported more than 1,000 confirmed cases.

The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported five months ago today, on Jan. 22. Since then, 2,275,645 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 119,923 have died, an increase of 27,616 cases and 308 deaths from Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Behind the Surge in Cases. Texas health officials said people going to bars, beaches, rivers and other social gatherings explains part of the statewide increase of new cases the past month, The Texas Tribune reported. Last week, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission stepped up its enforcement of COVID-19 protocols and since Friday has suspended the liquor permits of at least a dozen businesses for 30 days, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Under Abbott's latest executive order reopening Texas businesses, restaurants must limit their capacity to 75% and bars to 50%.

And while more testing is contributing to the increase in the number of new cases in Texas and elsewhere, it doesn't explain the overall rise, public health experts say. "What we are seeing is increased positivity in testing, and in many cases increased hospitalizations – so serious illness is happening. That’s not just because we're doing more testing in a state; that's because there is more serious disease in a state," Thomas Inglesby of Johns Hopkins' School of Public Health said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

Over on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, epidemiologist Michael Osterholm said it now was increasingly likely that the pandemic in the United States would be "more like a forest fire" than one marked by a lull between waves.

School Reopening Plan. The Texas Education Agency is expected to announce additional reopening guidelines on Tuesday as part of Gov. Abbott's plan for reopening public schools to in-person instruction in August. The plan, which reportedly will not make wearing masks mandatory for students and staff, has drawn strong objections from the Texas American Federation of Teachers and the Texas State Teachers Association, Forbes reported.

TSTA spokesman Clay Robison told Forbes in an email that neither Abbott nor Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath had contacted the association before deciding to reopen schools. "The pandemic hasn't even peaked in Texas yet," Robison wrote. "We believe we have been seeing record numbers of new Covid cases partly because the governor prematurely allowed restaurants, amusement venues and other businesses to reopen."

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


June 19, 2020

Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 can open today at 50% capacity under the third phase of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen the Texas economy. The number of counties reporting more than 1,000 cases has grown from 15 on Monday to 22 as of Thursday as rising numbers of new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations provide clear signs that the pandemic is not waning in Texas.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 3,516 new cases on Thursday, a record high for the third straight day, with 43 new deaths. The state also reported on Thursday that 2,947 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized -- a record high for the seventh straight day. Hospitalizations are up 68% since June 1.

Public health experts say an increase in hospitalizations could mean more people are becoming seriously ill, potentially threatening the ability of hospitals to deal with an influx of new patients. The state's hospitalization rate is 8.7%, based on current available data. There were 13,472 hospital beds reported available statewide Thursday and 1,453 available ICU beds.

As of Wednesday, the seven-day average positive test rate was 7.5%, up from 5.4% on June 1. A rise in the positivity rate could mean an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from increased testing. Some experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

The Department of State Health Services has confirmed 99,851 cases of COVID-19 statewide, with 2,105 deaths, since it reported Texas' first positive test for the coronavirus on March 4. The agency usually updates the state's COVID-19 case counts each day by 4 p.m.

The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported nearly five months ago, on Jan. 22. Since then, 2,178,710 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 118,365 have died, an increase of 23,138 cases and 733 deaths from Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coronavirus Deaths. The daily number of deaths from COVID-19 has been falling nationwide, from about 960 a day two weeks ago to around 680 now, according to an Associated Press analysis. Several factors explain why, experts tell AP. They include lessons learned over the past three months about treating severely ill patients and preventing infections, especially in nursing homes.

But there are warning signs the decline may be temporary, public health officials say. The number of deaths per day has been rising slowly in several states, including Texas. While the death rate in Texas remains one of the lowest in the country, 185 Texans have died of COVID-19 over the past seven days, an increase of 32 deaths from the previous seven days.

Texas Unemployment Rate. The May unemployment rate in Texas was 13%, down slightly from a revised record-high 13.5% in April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The bureau's preliminary unemployment rate for April was 12.8%.

Texas, which gained 237,800 jobs in May, was one of 38 states where unemployment rates were lower last month than in April, the bureau said. Nationally, the unemployment rate was 13.3% for May, down 1.4 percentage points from April.

The state saw a small increase in the number of people applying for unemployment benefits last week, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday. More than 2.5 million Texans have filed jobless claims since mid-March.

Child Care Facilities. COVID-19 cases at child care centers in Texas are rising as the number of open facilities has grown and the state removes pandemic safety rules put in place in mid-April, The Texas Tribune reported today. As of Thursday, 226 employees and 113 children at 270 centers had tested positive for COVID-19, The Texas Tribune reported, citing state data. Just two days earlier, 167 employees and 75 children at 203 centers had been reported infected.

With overall cases increasing in Texas, many parents are facing difficult decisions about sending their children to child care, according to The Texas Tribune, especially those parents who don't have the option of working from home.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


June 18, 2020

After Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff discovered the path in Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order reopening the state's economy that allows local governments to impose mask restrictions on businesses, other counties and cities dealing with rising COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations moved to follow Wolff's lead or began looking at doing so.

Wolff issued an executive order on Wednesday mandating that businesses must require customers and employees to wear masks "where six feet of separation is not feasible" or risk facing a fine up to $1,000. Hidalgo and Cameron counties quickly issued similar orders, and Dallas, Harris and Travis counties are considering imposing their own rules. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg added a mask requirement for businesses to his city's emergency health declaration, while Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued a mask order of his own Wednesday evening.

Though his executive order prohibits local governments from penalizing individuals for refusing to cover their faces, Abbott has consistently encouraged Texans to wear a mask in public. But masks have become a divisive issue in Texas and elsewhere and Abbott's declaration during an interview Wednesday that Wolff's order was compatible with his executive order because it is directed at businesses and not individuals sparked dissent on social media. The resistance by some Texans to wearing masks prompted Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to say during an interview Wednesday, "If the greatest point of liberty and pride in your life is not wearing a mask in a health pandemic – damn, you've got a bad life."

COVID-19 Case Counts. The mask issue is front and center again because Texas is experiencing sharp increases in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 3,516 new cases today, a record high for the third straight day, with 43 new deaths. According to today's count, 2,947 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized -- a record high for the seventh straight day. Hospitalizations are up 68% since June 1.

Public health experts say an increase in hospitalizations could mean more people are becoming seriously ill, potentially harming the ability of hospitals to deal with an influx of new patients. The state's hospitalization rate is 8.7%, based on current available data. There were 13,815 hospital beds reported available statewide and 1,473 available ICU beds.

As of Wednesday, the seven-day average positive test rate was 7.5%, up from 5.4% on June 1. A rise in the positivity rate could mean an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from increased testing. Some experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

The Department of State Health Services has confirmed 99,851 cases of COVID-19 statewide since tracking began in March, with 2,105 deaths.

The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported nearly five months ago, on Jan. 22. Since then, 2,155,572 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 117,632 have died, an increase of 22,834 cases and 754 deaths from Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reopening Schools. Gov. Greg Abbott told state lawmakers during a conference call today that Texas schools would reopen with students on campus in the fall, The Texas Tribune reported. The Texas Education Agency plans to release additional guidance for school districts on Tuesday that reportedly will give students flexibility to attend classes remotely. Districts will not be required to test students for COVID-19 symptoms or mandate they wear masks, an agency spokesman told The Tribune.

Jobless Claims. About 1.5 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending June 13, down 58,000 claims from the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department reported today. Applications for unemployment aid have fallen for 11 straight weeks since hitting a record 6.9 million in March, but the pace of the decline appears to have slowed, Reuters reported. More than 29 million people were receiving unemployment benefits during the week that ended May 30, according to the latest available data from the Labor Department.

In Texas, 93,895 people filed for unemployment last week, an increase of 4,219 applications from the week before. More than 2.5 million Texans have sought jobless benefits since mid-March.

Red Flags for Football. The University of Texas announced today that 13 football players who have been participating in voluntary workouts this week have tested positive or are presumed positive for COVID-19, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Another 10 players, who were identified through contact tracing, are in self-quarantine, UT said.

Players at the University of Houston, Texas Tech and Texas A&M University have also tested positive since workouts began this month, according to news reports.

"These numbers will raise red flags all over the country," Statesman reporter Brian Davis wrote of the UT test results. Though athletics officials and others associated with football at all levels insist games will be played this fall, doubts linger about the ability of teams to protect players from infection.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


June 17, 2020

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff issued an executive order today mandating that businesses must require customers and employees to wear masks "where six feet of separation is not feasible" or risk facing a fine up to $1,000. The order runs through the end of the month.

Gov. Greg Abbott's executive orders reopening Texas businesses do not require facial coverings and prohibit local governments from penalizing individuals who don't wear masks. He has rejected appeals by mayors and county judges asking him to reinstate their authority to mandate the wearing of masks to curb a rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in their cities and counties.

Wolff appears to have found the necessary nuance the governor was looking for, however. He "finally read what we had written and what they now realize they are capable of doing is that we want to make sure individual liberty is not infringed upon by government, and hence government cannot require individuals to wear masks," Abbott said in an interview today with Waco's KWTX-TV.

"Local governments can require stores and business to require masks. That's what was authorized in my plan," Abbott said. "Businesses … they've always had the opportunity and the ability, just like they can require people to wear shoes and shirts, these businesses can require people to wear face masks if they come into their businesses. Now local officials are just now realizing that that was authorized."

COVID-19 Case Counts. The Texas Department of State Health Services has confirmed 93,206 cases of COVID-19 statewide since tracking began in March, with 2,029 deaths. The state reported 2,622 new cases on Tuesday, and today said 2,793 patients currently are hospitalized -- a record high for the sixth straight day. Hospitalizations are up 85% since Memorial Day.

Gov. Abbott has said he considers the percentage of people tested for COVID-19 who have tested positive and hospitalization rates key factors when weighing the state's reopening plans. As of Tuesday, the seven-day average of new cases was 6.7%, up from 5.4% on June 1. A rise in the positivity rate could mean an increase in community transmission of the coronavirus separate from increased testing. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

An increase in hospitalizations could mean more people are becoming seriously ill, potentially endangering the ability of hospitals to deal with an influx of new patients. The state's hospitalization rate is 9.2%, based on current available data. There are 13,815 hospital beds available statewide and 1,473 available ICU beds, according to the Department of State Health Services -- an "abundant hospital capacity," Abbott said during a news conference Tuesday.

The governor also said Tuesday that several anomalies and other unique factors explained much of the recent increase in new cases. In addition, he pointed to an increase in the number of people under 30 testing positive for COVID-19, suggesting that young people in "bar-type settings" were failing in their individual responsibility to take the pandemic seriously. Abbott said the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission would suspend the liquor licenses of bars and restaurants that violate COVID-19 capacity and distancing protocols.

The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported nearly five months ago, on Jan. 22. Since then, 2,132,321 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 116,862 have died, an increase of 27,975 cases and 722 deaths from Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More Americans have now died of COVID-19 than died serving in World War I (116,516).

Prison Intakes. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has notified sheriffs that the prison system will again accept inmates from county jails on a limited basis starting July 1, The Texas Tribune reported Tuesday. TDCJ stopped taking county inmates in April because of COVID-19 outbreaks in jails and prison facilities but told sheriffs on Monday that mass testing has given it the flexibility to resume intakes.

TDCJ has tested more than 107,000 inmates for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, with 2,253 cases currently active (out of a total of 7,467). At least 54 prisoners and eight prison employees have died of COVID-19.

Work-Search Requirement. Starting July 6, out-of-work Texans will again have to prove they are looking for a new job or trying to reopen their businesses if they want to keep receiving unemployment benefits, the Texas Workforce Commission announced Tuesday. The commission had suspended the work-search requirement because of COVID-19.

More than 2.3 million Texans have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


June 16, 2020

For the past week, attention has been focused on Texas' string of record-high COVID-19 hospitalizations. Today, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported that there were 2,518 patients with COVID-19 in Texas hospitals – the eighth all-time high set over the past nine days.

Prompted by the increase in hospitalizations, Gov. Greg Abbott today held a news conference to discuss the state's hospital capacity. "We are here today to let Texans know about the abundant hospital capacity that exists to treat Texans who may test positive for COVID-19," Abbott said.

There currently are 14,993 hospital beds available statewide and 1,675 available ICU beds, the Department of State Health Services reported. Despite recent increases in new COVID-19 cases, Texas has succeeded in preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients, Abbott said. Galveston County is the only county where COVID-19 patients occupy more than 10% of the available hospital beds, Abbott said.

While the number of hospitalizations has increased sharply since Memorial Day, the state's hospitalization rate has remained generally within a limited range of around 8.5%. As of the start of Abbott's news conference at 1:15 p.m., the state was estimating that there are 28,036 active COVID-19 cases in Texas. With 2,518 patients hospitalized, the current statewide hospitalization rate is about 9%.

Abbott warned that the state would hit another record number of new COVID-19 cases today -- 2,622 – when the Department of State Health Services updates its case numbers this afternoon. But he said it was important to look behind the numbers. Hot spots – lately in prisons where large numbers of inmates have tested positive – and a few reporting anomalies in Collin, Hays and Pecos counties have had an outsized influence on the state's daily case count recently, Abbott said.

The governor also repeated his claim from Monday that Texans in their 20s "going to bar-type settings" and failing to take the pandemic seriously explain a recent increase in the number of people under 30 testing positive in some parts of the state, including Lubbock. Abbott said the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission would work to bring these locations into line with COVID-19 protocols.

The total number of cases in the state since the pandemic began was 89,108 as of Monday, with 1,983 total deaths. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 238 of Texas' 254 counties.

The seven-day average of new cases in Texas was 6.6% as of Sunday, up from a low of 4.3% on May 26. Public health experts generally consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported nearly five months ago, on Jan. 22. Since then, 2,104,346 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 116,140 have died, an increase of 18,577 cases and 496 deaths from Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Steroid Drug Reduces COVID-19 Deaths. Researchers at the University of Oxford in England announced today that an inexpensive, widely available steroid called dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to 35% in critically ill COVID-19 patients, Reuters reported. The scientists described their trial results as a "major breakthrough," and said the results suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in severe cases.

Mapping the Pandemic's Spread. A shift in the ethnic and political profile of COVID-19 patients at the county level has been underway since mid-April as the coronavirus spreads from city to suburb to small town, according to demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution. In late March, 59 counties, representing 8% of the U.S. population, were reporting 100 or more cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people. These high-prevalence counties were largely urban, racially diverse and Democratic. By the end of May, the number of high-prevalence counties had grown to 1,859, representing 86% of the population. (Of the 558 counties that reached high COVID-19 prevalence between April 20 and May 31, 90 were in Texas.) The new high-prevalence counties have fewer people per square mile and are whiter and more Republican.

"The implications of these shifts involve more than politics, as larger parts of the country reopen for business and recreation and subsequently face the health risks of the coronavirus," Frey writes in his latest update.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 15, 2020

The early advice on wearing face masks from public health officials was mixed, at best, and created confusion regarding the effectiveness of face coverings to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Since then, much more has been learned about how the virus is transmitted via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Several recent studies have concluded that wearing face masks in public may help stop the spread of COVID-19.
 
Following the publication this month of a study it funded, the World Health Organization now advises governments to encourage people to wear masks, especially where physical distancing is difficult to maintain. A report published last week by a team of scientists that included researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University concluded "that wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic."
 
The authors of a British study, also published last week, wrote of their findings: "A key message from our analyses to aid the widespread adoption of facemasks would be: ‘my mask protects you, your mask protects me.'" The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention echoes that point: "Your cloth face covering may protect them. Their cloth face covering may protect you," the CDC says.
 
Gov. Greg Abbott's office has released a series of public service videos, including ones featuring country singer George Strait, hall-of-fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith, encouraging Texans to wash their hands, follow social distancing guidelines and wear face masks. The governor’s executive orders rebooting the state’s economy, however, prevent county and city governments from enforcing local orders regarding face masks.
 
With the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations increasing in San Antonio, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff on Friday urged Abbott to let local governments mandate the wearing of face coverings if they feel such a requirement is necessary. Abbott rejected Wolff’s request.
 
"Judge Wolff and I have a philosophical difference," Abbott told San Antonio’s WOAI-TV. "He believes in government mandates, I believe in individual responsibility."
 
COVID-19 Case Counts. As has been widely reported the past several days, hospitalizations for COVID-19 have been increasing not only in San Antonio but also across Texas -- up 54% statewide since Memorial Day. The state has set record highs for the number of people hospitalized over seven of the past eight days. The latest all-time high was set today, with 2,326 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
 
Gov. Abbott frequently says the ratio of hospitalized patients to current cases and the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive are key metrics he considers in determining the state’s status for reopening. The seven-day average of new cases in Texas was 6.1% as of Saturday, up from a low of 4.3% on May 26. Public health experts generally consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.
 
The state estimates there were 27,537 active COVID-19 cases as of Sunday. With 2,326 patients hospitalized, the current hospitalization rate is 8.4%.
 
Abbott said last week that despite the increase in hospitalizations, the state has enough beds available for anyone who gets sick and that "there is no real need for us to ratchet back on the opening up of business." There are 14,525 hospital beds currently available statewide and 1,626 available ICU beds, the Department of State Health Services reported today.
 
The state reported 1,843 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and 19 new deaths, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 87,854 since the pandemic began, with 1,976 total deaths. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 237 of Texas’ 254 counties; 15 counties have reported more than 1,000 cases.
 
The state updates its COVID-19 case counts around 4 p.m. each day.
 
The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported nearly five months ago, on Jan. 22. Since then, 2,085,769 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 115,644 have died, an increase of 21,957 cases and 373 deaths from Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
Jail Outbreak. Bailey County is testing all of its jail inmates today after nine of 25 jail employees tested positive for COVID-19, Lubbock’s KJTV-TV reported Sunday. The county, located on the New Mexico border northwest of Lubbock, says it is working with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and the Texas Department of State Health Services to determine the best way forward. All movement of inmates in and out of the jail has stopped.
 
Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.
 
The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


June 12, 2020

Restaurant dining rooms can reopen today at 75% capacity under the third phase of Gov. Greg Abbott's ongoing plan to reboot the Texas economy. Texas is one of the fastest-moving states when it comes to rolling back restrictions put in place this spring in response to the coronavirus pandemic and its reopening timeline has occupied a prominent spot in several news stories this week looking at why nearly half the states in the country are seeing a sudden increase in new COVID-19 cases. This Associated Press analysis is one example.

More tests reveal more cases, and Abbott has pointed to outbreaks at meatpacking plants and state prisons as a reason for the state’s surge, though localized hot spots don't explain the overall rise in Texas cases. Given how the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spreads and runs its course after infection, public health officials think the accelerated lifting of stay-at-home orders during May and the gathering of large crowds in several places over the Memorial Day weekend -- with many people ignoring public health recommendations about social distancing and wearing masks – contributed to the recent increase in new cases.

The experts also are wondering what lies ahead as businesses continue to reopen and more people move about. Though they were outdoors, which reduces the chances of the virus' spread, and many protesters wore masks, the mass demonstrations for racial justice following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers are a risk, too. And the July 4 holiday, which is on a Saturday this year, is around the corner.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Gov. Abbott frequently says the ratio of hospitalized patients to current cases and the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive are key metrics he considers in determining the state's readiness for reopening. The seven-day average of new cases in Texas was 7% as of Thursday, up from a low of 4.3% on May 26, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Public health experts generally consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

While the number of hospitalizations in Texas set four record highs this week, the state's hospitalization rate so far has remained steady, fluctuating slightly within a narrow range around 8%. The state estimates there currently are 26,483 active COVID-19 cases while reporting 2,166 patients hospitalized, making the current hospitalization rate 8.2%.

In addition, Texas' statewide hospital capacity is adequate, according to the Department of State Health Services. There currently are 14,033 hospital beds available statewide and 1,502 available ICU beds.

The state reported 2,097 new cases of COVID-19 today and 19 new deaths. Texas has had a total of 83,680 cases since the pandemic began, with 1,939 deaths. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 236 of Texas’ 254 counties; 15 counties have reported more than 1,000 cases.

The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported on Jan. 22. Since then, 2,016,027 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 113,914 have died, an increase of 21,744 cases and 947 deaths from Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rating the Threat. "We may be approaching the precipice of a disaster," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said during a news conference Thursday to announce a color-coded system for rating the threat that COVID-19 poses to the Houston area.

The county's ongoing outbreak puts it on the second-highest threat level, Hidalgo said. Level 2 (orange), defined as "significant uncontrolled community transmission," advises residents to stay home when possible and minimize contact with others.

But an increase in cases and hospitalizations is putting Harris County closer to the highest threat level, Hidalgo warned. Level 1 (red) is defined as "severe uncontrolled community transmission" and calls on residents to stay home except for essential activities.

County and city leaders no longer have the authority to enforce stay-at-home orders, however, since Gov. Abbott's executive orders reopening the state supersede local directives.

"We're moving in the wrong direction with hospital admissions and if it continues we'll have to see what else we could do including sounding the alarm to our residents and moving our alert system to red," Hidalgo's spokesman, Rafael Lemaitre, said in an email to Bloomberg.

Modeling Update. The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, developer of a COVID-19 statistical model that’s been cited by the White House, has extended its COVID-19 projections through the summer. Taking into account the latest available data and reflecting the general trend nationwide toward lifting restrictions imposed in March and April, the institute says cumulative COVID-19 deaths in the United States could reach 169,890 by Oct. 1. That figure represents an additional 55,000 deaths nationwide over the next four months.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 11, 2020

The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act cut off smaller cities and counties across the country from receiving direct aid from the federal government. As The Associated Press reports, many are now pleading for a massive cash infusion from the federal government to help them plug large holes in their budgets caused by the economic fallout from COVID-19.

The CARES Act allocated $150 billion to help state and local governments meet COVID-19 expenses incurred from March 1 through Dec. 30. Based on its population, Texas received $11.24 billion. Of that amount, the U.S. Treasury Department sent $3.2 billion directly to the state’s 12 counties and six cities with populations of 500,000 or more while the state set aside $1.85 billion for Texas' 242 other counties and the cities within those counties at a rate of $55 per person. The state's smaller counties and cites have to apply for a portion of the money through the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM), which requires them to spend 75% of what they receive to cover specific, virus-related expenses.

Complicating matters, the state's dozen largest counties are expected to help the smaller cities and towns in their jurisdictions by sharing the money they got directly from the federal government.

The CARES Act money is helping. But even the state’s most populous cities are tallying their losses and facing tough choices about what to cut, The Texas Tribune reported today.

The Texas Association of Counties has joined with the National Association of Counties to call for a new round of direct, flexible aid for local governments of all sizes. The Democratic-led U.S. House passed a $3 trillion relief package in May that would send nearly $1 trillion to state and local governments. But the bill is considered dead in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate and the prospects for additional aid for states and local governments are uncertain.

Jobless Claims. About 1.54 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending June 6, down 355,000 claims from the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department reported today. Applications for unemployment aid have fallen for 10 straight weeks since hitting their peak in mid-March, but the pace of layoffs remains historically high. Nearly 21 million people are officially classified as unemployed, The Associated Press reported.

In Texas, 89,736 people filed for unemployment, a decrease of 16,941 applications from the week before. About 2.4 million Texans have sought jobless benefits since mid-March.

Fed Predicts Slow Recovery. The Federal Reserve estimates that the economy will shrink 6.5% this year and that unemployment will be at 9.3% by year's end and stay elevated into 2022. "Unemployment remains historically high," Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday. "My assumption is there will be a significant chunk -- well into the millions -- of people who don’t get back to their old jobs."

A Treatment for Severe COVID-19 Cases? University of Texas researchers and scientists at Houston Methodist Hospital have found that treating critically ill COVID-19 patients by transfusing blood plasma from recovered patients is a safe and potentially effective treatment option, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Their peer-reviewed study appears in The American Journal of Pathology.

COVID-19 Case Counts. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 2,504 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday – a daily record by more than 500 cases – and 32 new deaths. Texas now has reported a total of 79,757 cases since the pandemic began, with 1,885 deaths. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 236 of Texas' 254 counties; 14 counties have reported more than 1,000 cases.

For the third day in a row, Texas has reported more than 2,000 coronavirus hospitalizations: 2,008 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized as of today. A record 2,153 patients were reported hospitalized on Wednesday; 2,056 were in Texas hospitals on Tuesday.

Gov. Greg Abbott frequently says he considers the state's hospitalization rate and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests relative to total tests as key metrics in determining the state’s readiness for reopening. The state's seven-day average of new cases was 6.9% as of Tuesday, up from a low of 4.3% on May 26. Public health experts generally consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

And with an estimated 25,423 active COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, the state's current hospitalization rate is around 7.9%. According to the Department of State Health Services, there currently are 13,271 hospital beds available statewide and 1,419 available ICU beds.

The state updates its COVID-19 case counts daily, usually around 3:30 p.m., but sometimes not until late afternoon or early evening.

Nationwide, 1,994,283 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 112,967 have died, an increase of 20,486 cases and 834 deaths from Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 10, 2020

Texas reported its third consecutive day of record-breaking coronavirus hospitalizations today. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 2,153 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, up from a high of 2,056 on Tuesday, which was up from a high of 1,935 on Monday. Texas is one of at least nine states where coronavirus hospitalizations have increased sharply since Memorial Day weekend.

It takes about nine to 16 days to see increases in coronavirus infections and another five to seven days to see changes in the numbers of people hospitalized, Rebecca Fischer, a Texas A&M University epidemiologist, told The Texas Tribune. "In terms of new infections, we are seeing a surge...in part attributed to activities surrounding Memorial Day weekend, such as gatherings where protective behaviors may have been lax," she said.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who last week announced the third phase of his plan to reopen Texas businesses, frequently says he considers the state’s hospitalization rate and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests relative to total tests as key metrics in determining the state's readiness for reopening. The state's seven-day average of new cases also has increased the past couple of weeks, rising from a low of 4.3% on May 26 to 6.9% as of Tuesday. Public health experts generally consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

And with an estimated 25,423 active COVID-19 cases as of today, the state's current hospitalization rate is around 8.5%. The Texas Department of State Health Services says there currently are 13,645 hospital beds available statewide and 1,508 available ICU beds.

In terms of daily case numbers, Texas reported 2,504 new cases of COVID-19 today -- also a record – and 32 new deaths. Texas now has reported a total of 79,757 cases since the pandemic began, with 1,885 deaths.

Public health experts expect the numbers will continue to climb in the weeks ahead as the protests sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody combine with more businesses reopening and people socializing without wearing masks or maintaining six feet of distance from others.

Nationwide, 1,973,797 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 112,133 have died, an increase of 17,376 cases and 950 deaths from Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public Service Announcement. Gov. Abbott’s office released another COVID-19 public service video today, this time featuring hall-of-fame baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan encouraging Texans to wash their hands, practice social distancing and wear a mask. "As Texans, we need to be responsible," Ryan says. "We need to be smart. So when you leave the house, don’t be a knucklehead."

Movie Theaters Reopening. Most movie theaters nationwide remain closed, even in states like Texas where they have been allowed to reopen with limited capacity for the past several weeks. A main reason is there have been few new movies to show as Hollywood has postponed the release dates for its big summer films. But change is expected soon, The Associated Press reported today.

AMC Theaters announced Tuesday that it plans to reopen almost all of its theaters worldwide by mid-July, when a couple of anticipated summer movies -- "Tenet," a thriller by acclaimed director Christopher Nolan, and Disney's live-action remake of "Mulan" -- are expected to be released. Cinemark, which is based in Plano, and Cineworld, owner of Regal Cinemas, also have said they plan to reopen in July.

The question is whether moviegoers will feel safe returning to the cineplex, especially if new cases of COVID-19 continue to increase. And if not, will digital distribution of new movies to streaming and on-demand platforms become the new norm while theaters struggle to remain open?

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 9, 2020

New COVID-19 cases and daily hospitalizations are growing in Texas as businesses reopen under the third phase of Gov. Greg Abbott's plan to restart the Texas economy, The Texas Tribune reported Monday, with the 14-day trend line showing the number of new cases increasing about 71% in the past two weeks. The state says hot spots like prisons and meatpacking plants are major contributors to the increase.

The state began mass testing of inmates on May 12 and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice began reporting results in late May. But it's hard to tell how much of the statewide increase comes from recent prison testing, The Tribune reported, because the Texas Department of State Health Services doesn't include all prison cases in its data.

Abbott often says he considers hospitalizations and the percentage of tests coming back positive as key metrics in determining the state's readiness for reopening. As of Sunday, the rolling average rate of positive viral tests over the past seven days was 7.1%, up 65% since May 26 when the state recorded a seven-day positivity rate of 4.3%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

On Monday, the state reported 1,935 Texans were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals, a record high that lasted one day. Today the state is reporting 2,056 hospitalized patients.

The state's hospitalization rate, however, has remained generally steady at around 8%. There were an estimated 23,341 active COVID-19 cases on Monday; with 2,056 patients reported hospitalized, the current hospitalization rate is 8.8%.

As The Tribune reported, health data can vary greatly day to day so public health officials use rolling averages to better capture trends over time. That said, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 638 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and six new deaths, bringing the cumulative number of reported cases in the state to 75,616, with 1,836 total deaths. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 235 of Texas' 254 counties.

The state updates its COVID-19 case counts daily, usually around 3:30 p.m., though sometimes the update doesn't take place until late afternoon or early evening.

Nationwide, 1,956,421 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 110,925 have died, an increase of 17,598 new cases and 550 deaths from Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mail-In Voting. Texas counties are taking different approaches to explaining the Texas Supreme Court's recent mail-in voting decision to voters, the Houston Chronicle reported today.

The court ruled on May 27 that a lack of immunity to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 does not constitute a disability that would allow Texans under 65 to vote by mail. But the court left it up to individual voters, not county clerks and other election officials, to decide for themselves whether their own health or health history fits the state’s definition of a disability as a "sickness or physical condition" that would prevent them from voting in person.

Texas holds congressional and statewide runoffs July 14. Early voting begins June 29.

A separate mail-in voting case in pending before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Contact Tracing in Rural Texas. Across rural Texas, tracking COVID-19 cases largely has been left up to county judges and other local officials who often aren't even told by the state who has the virus out of privacy concerns. The result, The Texas Observer reported Monday, is a patchwork of reporting, epidemiological investigations and contact tracing stymied by communication delays with health officials.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 8, 2020

The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) is working with local leaders and public health officials to expand COVID-19 testing in underserved and minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, Gov. Greg Abbott announced today. TDEM is also working to expand walk-up and drive-thru testing in cities where large-scale protests against police brutality have taken place, the governor said.

"As the State of Texas continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we are committed to ensuring every Texan has access to COVID-19 testing no matter where they live," Abbott said in a statement. "We must address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underserved and minority communities and ensure that anyone who needs a test can have one."

On Friday, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced that it will study how race, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and other factors are putting vulnerable Texans at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. A preliminary analysis is expected in the fall.

Incomplete demographic information has left Texas officials struggling to understand the impact of COVID-19 on minority populations. Data collected in other parts of the country show that African Americans are disproportionately contracting and dying from COVID-19.

Prison Conditions. In letters written to their loved ones and The Texas Tribune, 20 inmates at Huntsville's Wynne Unit have described unsanitary and disorganized conditions in the 137-year-old prison where more than 200 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. At least 10 Wynne inmates are believed to have died from COVID-19.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) began testing all state prisoners systemwide in mid-May and has administered 83,643 tests so far, according to TDCJ data. As of Saturday, 6,883 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, with 63 of the state's 106 prison units currently reporting active cases. More than 1,000 prison employees also have tested positive. Forty-two prisoners are presumed to have died from COVID-19.

TDCJ says it has taken steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect inmates from the virus. The preventive measures include isolating sick inmates and regularly checking inmates for symptoms.

COVID-19 Case Numbers. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 1,425 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and 11 new deaths, bringing the total number of reported cases in the state to 74,978, with 1,830 total deaths. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 235 of Texas' 254 counties.

As of the Saturday, the rolling average rate of positive viral tests over the past seven days was 7.6%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There were an estimated 23,390 active COVID-19 cases in Texas on Sunday, with 1,878 patients in hospitals – an 8% hospitalization rate.

The state updates its COVID-19 case counts and test and hospital data daily, usually around 3:30 p.m.

Nationwide, 1,938,823 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 110,375 have died, an increase of 17,919 new cases and 474 deaths from Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 5, 2020

Economists had expected the U.S. government would report today that another 8.5 million jobs had been lost to the coronavirus pandemic in May on top of the 21.4 million jobs lost in April. They were expecting a staggering unemployment rate near 20%.

Instead, the nation's economy added 2.5 million jobs in May and the monthly employment rate fell from 14.7% to 13.3%, the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. While May's jobless rate compares with levels not seen since the 1930s, businesses have begun rehiring workers faster than many analysts had forecast as states reopen their economies.

"The surprising thing here is the timing and that it happened as quickly as it did," Adam Kamins, senior regional economist at Moody's Analytics, told The Associated Press.

Still, it will take months for the millions of workers who have lost their jobs since mid-March to find new ones, economists say. "We are witnessing the easiest phase of growth as people come off temporary layoffs and come back to their employers," Harvard University economist Jason Furman told AP. "And once employers are done recalling people, the much harder, longer work of recovery will have to proceed."

Allocating Coronavirus Relief Fund Dollars. The Texas Municipal League sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday asking him to eliminate the state's requirement that cities in counties with less than 500,000 people spend 75% of Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) dollars on medical, public health or relevant payroll expenses incurred by responding to COVID-19.

The CRF was established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department sets parameters on the money's use, but in its letter to Abbott, the Texas Municipal League notes that the Treasury Department prohibits restrictions like the state's 75% rule.

"Many cities have expressed concerns that the current requirement in the CRF terms and conditions document requiring 75 percent of funds received to be used on only three eligible categories of expenditure is unnecessarily restrictive," the letter says. It goes on to say that "providing maximum flexibility for use of CRF revenue would allow cities to better tailor recovery efforts to the unique challenges in each city."

SNAP Benefits Extended. Gov. Abbott announced Thursday that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will provide $177 million in emergency food benefits for June after the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved an extension of the maximum amount allowed under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

"As we continue the process of safely and strategically opening Texas for business, we are committed to ensuring families across the state have access to nutritious food," Abbott said in a statement. "This extension of emergency benefits will help Texans in need provide for their families while our state continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic."

COVID-19 Case Numbers. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 1,649 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 33 new deaths, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 69,920, with 1,767 total deaths. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 232 of Texas' 254 counties.

As of Wednesday, the rolling average rate of positive viral tests over the past seven days was 6.3%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There were an estimated 21,354 active COVID-19 cases in Texas on Thursday, with 1,796 patients in hospitals – an 8.4% hospitalization rate.

The state updates its COVID-19 case counts and test and hospital data daily, usually around 3:30 p.m.

Nationwide, 1,862,656 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 108,064 have died, an increase of 20,555 new cases and 1,035 deaths from Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 4, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott announced the third phase of his plan to reopen Texas' economy Wednesday afternoon. Some highlights from Abbott's latest executive order:

  • Most businesses are now allowed to operate at least 50% capacity, including bars as long as customers are seated.
  • Restaurants may expand their maximum table size from six to 10 people; on June 12, they can increase their capacity to 75%.
  • Houses of worship, child-care facilities and local government offices are among a select group of businesses and services allowed to open without capacity limits.
  • There are no occupancy limits for most outdoor areas or events. However, professional and collegiate sporting events, swimming pools, water parks, museums, libraries and a few other facilities and events must limit their capacity to 50%.
  • Barbershops, hair and nail salons, and similar personal-care and beauty businesses may open at full capacity if they maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing between work stations.

"The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe," Abbott said in a statement.

COVID-19 Case Numbers. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 1,649 new cases of COVID-19 today and 33 new deaths, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 69,920, with 1,767 total deaths. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 232 of Texas' 254 counties.

In his statement, Abbott said 45% of the state's 1,703 new positive cases on Wednesday came from "isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants." He noted that the state's "surge response teams" are containing hot spots as they arise.

Abbott frequently says his focus is on the state's hospitalization rate and the number of positive COVID-19 tests relative to total tests. As of the Wednesday, the rolling average rate of positive viral tests over the past seven days was 6.3%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There were an estimated 21,354 active COVID-19 cases in Texas on Wednesday, with 1,796 patients in hospitals – an 8.4% hospitalization rate.

Nationwide, 1,842,101 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 107,029 have died, an increase of 14,676 cases and 827 deaths from Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mail-In Voting. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously agreed this afternoon to stay a lower court ruling that would have expanded the possibility of voting by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic to all Texas voters. The case remains before the federal appeals court and awaits a further ruling. Early voting for Texas' July 14 primary runoff elections begins June 29.

In a separate case, the Texas Supreme Court ruled last month that a lack of immunity to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 does not meet the state election code’s definition of a disability as a "sickness or physical condition" that would put a voter at risk if they voted in person, and thus does not qualify a voter for a mail-in ballot.

Jobless Claims. About 1.9 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending May 30, down 249,000 claims from the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department reported today. A total of about 42.7 million people have now filed jobless claims since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic began widely disrupting the economy.

In Texas, 106,821 people filed for unemployment, a decrease of 20,896 applications from the week before. More than 2.3 million Texans have sought unemployment aid the past two-plus months.

Some workers have been rehired since the number of jobless claims reached its peak a couple of months ago, but many employers are still cutting jobs. The government is scheduled to release its jobs report for May on Friday. Many economists expect the unemployment rate for the month will be around 20%, The Associated Press reported.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 3, 2020

For the second time this year, the Texas Workforce Commission announced the state has triggered a federal reimbursement program that will allow it to extend emergency unemployment benefits an additional 13 weeks, starting in early July.

Combined with the usual 26 weeks the state allows people to receive unemployment benefits and an initial 13-week federal extension in March, the new extension will make available a full year of unemployment payments to Texans who need them. An additional $600 in weekly benefits is also currently available under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Those benefits end July 25.

Texas' unemployment rate was 12.8% in April. The Texas Workforce Commission has paid out $9.7 billion in benefits so far using state and federal money.

Mental Health Support. Doctors, nurses and other health workers risk exposing themselves or their families to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 every day. Now, some major hospital systems in Texas say an increasing number of front-line health workers is reaching out for mental health support, The Texas Tribune reported today.

Struggling With Risk. The Washington Post profiles Marisela Martinez, a 68-year-old cancer survivor, and her extended Dallas family as they try to decide which risks are acceptable to take and which are reckless amid conflicting federal, state and local advice about COVID-19. Millions of other Americans are experiencing a similar struggle of their own.

Republican National Convention. President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday night that he wants to move the Republican National Convention in August from Charlotte, North Carolina, to a new state. North Carolina officials have refused to guarantee the event could be held at full capacity and without public health restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Vice President Mike Pence last month suggested that Texas might be a good alternative, and Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey has said Texas would be glad to oblige. "We'd be happy to make it work in Texas Mr. President!" Dickey tweeted Tuesday.

Florida, Georgia and Tennessee have expressed interest in hosting the convention, The Associated Press reported today.

COVID-19 Case Counts. There have been 68,271 total cases of COVID-19 in Texas and 1,734 deaths as of today, up 1,703 cases and 36 deaths from Tuesday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 232 of Texas' 254 counties.

The state was reporting 1,006,768 total test results for the coronavirus itself and 110,506 tests for antibodies to the virus. The rolling average rate of positive viral tests over the past seven days as of Tuesday was 6.6%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There currently are an estimated 20,679 active COVID-19 cases in Texas, with 1,487 patients in hospitals – a 7.2% hospitalization rate.

Nationwide, 1,827,425 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 106,202 have died, an increase of 24,955 cases and 1,045 deaths from Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 2, 2020

Almost 26,000 nursing home residents in the United States have died from COVID-19, according to a letter sent to the nation's governors by the directors of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data collected by the federal government show that 60,439 people in nursing homes were infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 as of May 24 and 25,923 died.

In addition, 34,442 nursing home employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and 449 have died of the illness. The information from the nation’s 15,412 nursing homes is only partially complete so the numbers of cases and deaths no doubt are higher.

Texas nursing homes reported 1,356 COVID-19 cases, with 228 deaths. Staff cases numbered 940, with two deaths. The data come from 1,140 of Texas' 1,218 nursing homes.

Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services to test all nursing home residents and employees for COVID-19. He also mobilized disinfection teams from the Texas National Guard to help limit the spread of the virus.

A Failure to Communicate. Though more than a third of Texans speak a language other than English at home, important coronavirus information from the state and local governments is mostly being communicated in English, The Texas Tribune reported today. The language barrier risks leaving communities where languages other than English are spoken vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas was reporting 64,880 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,678 deaths as of Monday, up 593 cases and six deaths from Sunday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 231 of Texas' 254 counties.

The state was reporting 970,031 total test results for the coronavirus itself and 103,460 tests for antibodies to the virus. The rolling average rate of positive viral tests over the past seven days through Sunday was 5.4%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There were an estimated 19,864 active COVID-19 cases in Texas as of Monday, with 1,756 patients in hospitals – an 8.8% hospitalization rate.

The state updates its COVID-19 case counts and test and hospital data daily, usually around 3:30 p.m.

Nationwide, 1,802,470 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 105,157 have died, an increase of 14,790 cases and 761 deaths from Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


June 1, 2020

The nationwide protests spurred by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer have knocked COVID-19 from the top of the news pages and news broadcasts the past several days. But as states continue to reopen their economies, public health officials are worried that the mass gatherings may lead to new coronavirus outbreaks. In addition, health officials fear the protests will disrupt efforts to test for new cases and track and isolate individuals who may have been exposed to the virus.

Working in the health officials' favor is the fact that infections don’t spread as easily outdoors as indoors. And many protesters have been wearing masks. But they also are standing close to each other and droplets produced by shouting or coughing in reaction to tear gas or pepper spray can possibly increase the chances of infection.

A loss of trust in government also threatens to stall efforts to contain COVID-19, especially in African American communities that have been hit disproportionately hard by the coronavirus. "In this current environment which has enhanced or brought forth a mistrust of governmental authority, it might make them disinclined to speak with anyone in government," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, said in a story published today by The Associated Press.

State of Disaster. Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster Sunday that allows him to suspend state laws to let federal law enforcement officers act as Texas peace officers and otherwise respond to the rioting and looting that have accompanied the protests. He also activated the National Guard in response to the protest violence.

"Every Texan and every American has the right to protest and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights," Abbott said in a statement. "However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive. As protests have turned violent in various areas across the state, it is crucial that we maintain order, uphold public safety, and protect against property damage or loss."

State Sales Tax Revenue. The amount of sales tax revenue Texas collected in May totaled $2.6 billion, a 13.2% fall from the amount collected in May 2019. The decline represented the steepest year-over-year decline in 10 years, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced today.

"Significant declines in sales tax receipts were evident in all major economic sectors, with the exception of telecommunications services," Hegar said. "The steepest decline was in collections from oil and gas mining, as energy companies cut well drilling and completion spending following the crash in oil prices."

Most of the sales tax revenue collected in May is based on sales made in April, when much of the economy was shut down to curb the spread of COVID-19.

"With the easing of state and local government social distancing orders beginning in May, business activity in the sectors most affected by measures to curb the pandemic should begin to slowly recover," Hegar said, "but operations resuming at reduced capacity will result in continued reductions in employment, income and activity subject to sales tax for months to come."

Sales taxes account for 57% of all tax revenue collected by the state, according to Hegar’s office. On May 20, Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen directed certain state agencies and all state universities to submit plans to cut their budgets by 5%. The plans are due by June 15.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas was reporting 64,287 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,672 deaths as of Sunday, up 1,949 cases and 24 deaths from Saturday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 231 of Texas’ 254 counties.

The state was reporting 951,865 total test results for the coronavirus itself and 102,928 tests for antibodies to the virus. The rolling average rate of positive viral tests over the past seven days through Friday was 4.6%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There were an estimated 20,192 active COVID-19 cases in Texas as of Sunday, with 1,756 patients in hospitals – an 8.7% hospitalization rate.

The state updates its COVID-19 case counts and test and hospital data daily, usually around 3:30 p.m.

Nationwide, 1,787,680 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 104,396 have died, an increase of 26,177 cases and 696 deaths from Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty-one states were reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties’ Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


May 29, 2020

During an interview with Lubbock's KCBD-TV on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott said he will extend the early voting period for the November election to help reduce crowds of voters at the polls and stop the spread of COVID-19. Abbott didn't say for how long he would extend early voting, but for the July 14 primary runoff election the governor moved the start of early voting up a week from July 6 to June 29. Early voting ends July 10.

Early voting for the Nov. 3 election currently is scheduled to run from Oct. 19 through Oct. 30.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled this week that a lack of immunity to COVID-19 does not qualify a voter for a mail-in ballot. Answering a question about the court's decision, Abbott said extending the early voting period "allows more people to go vote early in settings that are not highly congregated. As a result, you can go vote without having to worry about a whole bunch of people around you that you could contract COVID-19 from."

Public Service Announcement. Gov. Abbott's office released a COVID-19 public service video Thursday featuring country singer George Strait riffing on the lyrics of one of his hit songs. Titled "Write This Down, Take a Little Note," Strait reminds viewers of a few "friendly things" they can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19: Wash your hands regularly, wear a mask and stay at least six feet apart from others while in public. "Let's show the world what it means to be Texan by staying safe and staying friendly," Strait says.

Dallas County Judge Speaks Out. In an interview published today in the Texas Observer, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins offers his take on Texas' decentralized public health system; Gov. Abbott's reopening plan; the difference between federal, state and county efforts to contain Ebola in Dallas County in 2014 and COVID-19 now; and the need for more testing and contact tracing.

"We're hoping for the best and preparing for the worst," Jenkins says.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas was reporting 59,776 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,601 deaths as of Thursday, up 1,855 cases and 39 deaths from Wednesday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 230 of Texas' 254 counties.

As of Wednesday, the state was reporting 873,218 total test results for the coronavirus itself and 88,643 tests for antibodies to the virus. The rolling average rate of positive viral tests over the past seven days through Wednesday was 4.3%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There were an estimated 19,270 active COVID-19 cases in Texas as of Thursday, with 1,692 patients in hospitals – an 8.8% hospitalization rate.

The state updates its COVID-19 case counts and test and hospital data daily, usually around 3:30 p.m.

Nationwide, 1,719,827 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 101,711 have died, an increase of 21,304 cases and 1,265 deaths from Thursday, according to the CDC. Thirty-one states are now reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 28, 2020

The Texas Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday afternoon that a lack of immunity to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 does not make a voter eligible to receive a mail-in ballot. In an opinion written by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, the court agreed with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the risk of contracting COVID-19 does not meet the state’s definition of a disability as a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from voting in person.

However, the court rejected Paxton’s request that it order county clerks and other election officials to stop sending mail-in ballots to voters who claim a disability because of COVID-19. Voters aren’t required to specify their disability when they check the disability box on a vote-by-mail application, and the court said that county clerks have no “ministerial duty” to investigate disability claims.

Despite Paxton “vaguely” alleging otherwise, the court also said “there is no evidence in the record” that any county clerk “has accepted a faulty application.” In finding Paxton’s request unwarranted, the court said it is “confident that the clerks and all election officials will comply with the law in good faith.”

A separate vote-by-mail case from Texas is pending in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Jobless Claims. More than 2.1 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending May 23, down 323,000 claims from the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department reported today. A total of about 41 million people have now filed jobless claims since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic began widely disrupting the economy. In Texas, 128,105 people filed for unemployment, a decrease of 5,960 applications from the week before. Roughly 2.2 million Texans have sought unemployment aid the past two-plus months.

The overall number of people currently drawing jobless benefits fell from 25 million to 21 million, The Associated Press reported. The decline suggests that some companies are starting to rehire as all 50 states gradually begin to reopen their economies.

Surface Contact. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revised its "How COVID-19 Spreads" webpage to reflect the latest research about the new coronavirus, specifically regarding the risk of contracting COVID-19 by touching a surface. Now, given some recent reporting in the media and on social media, the CDC has revised its revision to clarify its view on transmissibility.

Yes, it remains true that you’re much more likely to get COVID-19 when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks in an indoor space within six feet of you. And COVID-19 appears to spread more easily than the flu and an infected person may not show symptoms but still may be able to spread the virus.

But – and this is where the clarification comes in – it's still possible to get COVID-19 by touching surfaces such as doorknobs, railings and tabletops and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Surfaces aren’t risk-free.

Got it this time? The CDC hopes so.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas was reporting 57,921 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,562 deaths as of Wednesday, up 1,361 cases and 26 deaths from Tuesday, according to the latest available data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 230 of Texas’ 254 counties, up one county from the day before.

As of Monday, the state was reporting 855,674 test results for the coronavirus itself and 87,565 tests for antibodies to the virus. The rolling average rate of positive viral tests over the past seven days through Tuesday was 4.3%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There were an estimated 22,055 active COVID-19 cases in Texas as of Wednesday, with 1,645 patients in hospitals – a 7.5% hospitalization rate.

The state updates its COVID-19 case counts and test and hospital data daily, usually around 3:30 p.m.

Nationwide, 1,698,523 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 100,446 have died, an increase of 19,680 cases and 1,415 deaths from Wednesday, according to the CDC. Thirty-one states are now reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties’ Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


May 27, 2020

The Texas Secretary of State's office has released eight pages of "minimum recommended health protocols" to help election officials and voters reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Early voting for the July 14 primary runoff election starts June 29.

Officials are encouraged to facilitate social distancing among voters, disinfect voting equipment and screen polling place workers for symptoms of COVID-19. Voters are encouraged to cover their mouth and nose, bring their own hand sanitizer and self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms -- and to consider voting curbside if they have a cough, fever or other symptoms of possible infection.

The protocols do not address mail-in ballots. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other state officials are resisting efforts to expand voting by mail during the pandemic. The Texas Supreme Court and the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals are considering separate cases on the state’s eligibility requirements for a mail-in ballot.

Surge Response Update. Gov. Greg Abbott is scheduled to hold a news conference in Amarillo today at 2 p.m. to update efforts by "surge response teams" to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Panhandle. Cases tied to meatpacking plants in the area have contributed to the highest infection rates in the state. KAMR-TV and KFDA-TV in Amarillo will livestream the news conference.

Help for Nursing Homes. Gov. Abbott and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission today announced that $3.6 million was now available to help nursing facilities buy tablets, webcams and headphones to connect residents with their families and friends.

"This program will help Texans in nursing homes stay connected to their loved ones while protecting the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations," Abbott said in a statement. "As we continue to respond to COVID-19 and mitigate the spread of this virus, we are committed to developing effective strategies that protect Texans while keeping them connected."

Texas Health and Human Services provides application guidelines for the funding and other compliance information.

Camping Reservations. State parks are now accepting new reservations for overnight camping, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced Tuesday in a press release. Texas state parks reopened for day use on April 20 after Gov. Abbott lifted certain restrictions and they began honoring previously booked camping reservations on May 18. Parks will continue to operate at limited capacity, the department said. Visitors are expected to follow social distancing and other health and safety rules.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas was reporting 56,560 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,536 deaths as of Tuesday, up 589 cases and nine deaths from Monday, according to the latest available data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 229 of Texas' 254 counties, up one county from the day before.

As of Monday, the state was reporting 821,233 test results for the coronavirus itself and 84,841 tests for antibodies to the virus. The rolling average rate of positive viral tests over the past seven days through Monday was 5.15%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There were an estimated 22,446 active COVID-19 cases in Texas as of Tuesday, with 1,534 patients in hospitals – a 6.8% hospitalization rate.

The state updates its COVID-19 case counts and test and hospital data daily, sometimes by 3:30 p.m., sometimes later.

Nationwide, 1,662,414 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 98,261 have died, an increase of 24,958 cases and 592 deaths from Monday, according to the CDC. Thirty states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC reported.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


May 26, 2020

Based on its population, Texas received $11.24 billion of the $150 billion set aside by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help state and local governments meet COVID-19 expenses incurred from March 1 through Dec. 30. Of that amount, the U.S. Treasury Department sent $3.2 billion directly to the state's 12 counties (Bexar, Collin, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Bend, Harris, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Tarrant, Travis and Williamson) and six cities (Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio) with populations greater than 500,000. Gov. Greg Abbott and other top state officials announced on May 11 that they were making $1.85 billion of the remaining $8 billion available to Texas' 242 other counties and the cities within those counties at a rate of $55 per person.

Meanwhile, the dozen largest counties are expected to help the smaller cities and towns in their jurisdictions by sharing the money they got directly from the federal government. And there, the Austin American-Statesman reported this weekend, is where the issue has left the governor's office, urban county judges and mayors within Texas' largest counties vying for federal funding.

The county judges of 11 of the 12 largest counties wrote Abbott on May 13 asking for more CARES Act money. (Collin County Judge Chris Hill was not a signatory to the letter.) They noted that while their counties account for 68.9% of the COVID-19 cases in Texas, the funding they received from the federal government represents only 28.6% of the $11.24 billion given Texas. "Thus, we ask you to address this shortfall," they wrote.

That isn't possible given Congress' intent, Abbott said in a letter sent Friday that also was signed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Texas Senate Finance Committee and Texas House Appropriations Committee. The letter notes that the CARES Act "was meant to provide resources for BOTH state and local responses – not local expenses alone."

"We trust in your ability to partner with your local constituencies to meet the needs of all of your citizens in your smaller cities and in the county," the letter says.

Additional Business Openings. Gov. Abbott issued a proclamation today allowing water parks, recreational sports programs for adults, driver education programs and food courts to reopen as part of the second phase of his plan to restart the Texas economy. Food courts and driver education programs can resume operations immediately, the governor's office said in a press release. Water parks can reopen starting May 29 and recreational sports programs for adults can resume May 31. All businesses and activities must follow social distancing and other health and safety protocols.

County-by-County Testing Numbers. Their interest piqued by the low number of test results in some rural counties, reporters with KHOU-TV in Houston reached out to nearly 70 counties with fewer than 20 test results listed by the Texas Department of State Health Services. KHOU's report includes several interviews with county judges about COVID-19 testing.

Stockpile Spending. States are spending billions of dollars buying medical supplies such as masks, gloves and ventilators, but many aren't sharing details with the public about how much they’re paying, which businesses they're using and what they're getting in return, The Associated Press reported Monday. Forty-four states provided figures to the AP showing they had ordered or spent more than $6 billion collectively on protective equipment and ventilators. Texas was one of six states that didn't reply to the AP's request for information.

Meatpacking Industry. As of May 26, there have been at least 16,600 reported positive COVID-19 cases tied to meatpacking facilities in at least 197 plants in 32 states and at least 64 reported worker deaths at 32 plants in 19 states, according to The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. The independent, nonprofit newsroom, which focuses on agribusiness and related topics, is tracking COVID-19's impact on meatpacking workers and the meat industry. Its work includes a searchable database.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas was reporting 55,971 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,527 deaths as of Monday, up 623 cases and eight deaths from Sunday, according to the latest available data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 228 of Texas' 254 counties.

As of Sunday, the state was reporting 805,654 test results for the coronavirus itself and 80,700 tests for antibodies to the virus. The rolling average rate of positive viral tests over the past seven days through Sunday was 4.9%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There were an estimated 22,662 active COVID-19 cases in Texas as of Monday, with 1,534 patients in hospitals – a 6.8% hospitalization rate.

Nationwide, 1,662,414 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 98,261 have died, an increase of 24,958 cases and 592 deaths from Monday, according to the CDC. Thirty states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC reported.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 22, 2020

The unemployment rate in Texas rose rapidly in April to 12.8%, the Texas Workforce Commission reported today. The monthly rate is the state's worst on record, which previously was 9.2% in November 1986 during the height of the oil bust of the mid-1980s.

Oil prices again have collapsed because of a global oil glut. And the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has created a parallel crisis that has severely damaged the national and Texas economies. All major industries in the state experienced job losses in April, the commission said. Economic analysts say recovery will be a slow process, according to recent reports by The Texas Tribune and Austin American-Statesman.

New Openings. Bars, bowling alleys and bingo halls are among the businesses allowed to reopen today as part of the second phase of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to restart the Texas economy. Like restaurants, retail stores, hair salons and other businesses previously allowed to reopen, they must follow social distancing protocols. The latest guidelines include one change for restaurants: They can now operate at 50% capacity rather than 25%.

With most businesses now allowed to reopen to varying degrees, Abbott released a public service announcement today encouraging Texans to practice social distancing, wear a mask when in public and wash their hands regularly. "As we safely open up our state, we need to unite as one Texas to contain COVID-19 and get Texans back to work," Abbott says in the announcement titled "Be a Good Neighbor. Be a Texan."

Federal Money for Nursing Homes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced today that it has begun distributing nearly $4.9 billion to nursing homes nationwide to counter the effects of COVID-19. The distribution includes nearly $400 million to Texas nursing homes.

The money is being released on both a fixed and variable basis, the department said. Each nursing home will receive $50,000 plus $2,500 per bed.

'We Are Still Learning.' The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revised its "How COVID-19 Spreads" webpage to reflect the latest information about the new coronavirus. "We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes," the CDC says.

The newest research indicates that the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads more efficiently than the flu virus and is easily transmitted when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks within six feet of another person. An infected person may not show symptoms but still may be able to spread the virus, which does not appear to be easily transmitted by touching surfaces, the CDC says.

Pointers for Schools. The CDC this week published strategies for school districts to consider as they prepare for in-person classes this fall. The CDC's recommendations are based on "guiding principles" to help schools protect students, teachers and staff and curb the spread of COVID-19.

New Rules for Air Travelers. The Transportation Security Administration released updated rules Thursday as it prepares for summer travel in the time of COVID-19. Among the changes: Airplane passengers should be prepared to scan their own boarding passes, keep food separate from the rest of their carry-on items and practice social distancing as much as possible. Airlines already are requiring passengers to wear masks on planes. The TSA reported a "steady increase" in travelers over the past couple of weeks but the number of airline passengers remains only about 10% of normal levels.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas was reporting 52,268 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,440 deaths as of Thursday, up 945 cases and 21 deaths from Wednesday, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 225 of Texas' 254 counties.

The state reported Thursday that 800,433 Texans have been tested for COVID-19. The rolling average rate of positive tests over the past seven days is 5.4%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

Texas was combining data from viral tests and antibody tests, potentially providing an inaccurate picture of the coronavirus’ spread over time, as CNN reported this week. On May 19, the state began excluding antibody tests when calculating its average seven-day positivity rate.

There were an estimated 19,664 active COVID-19 cases in Texas as of Thursday, with 1,680 patients currently in hospitals – an 8.5% hospitalization rate.

Nationwide, 1,551,095 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday and 93,061 have died, according to the CDC. Twenty-nine states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC reported.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 21, 2020

Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann announced on Twitter today that she and her husband, Greg, have tested positive for COVID-19.

"Greg and I have tested positive for COVID-19," Lehrmann tweeted. "We began to exhibit symptoms last week, despite diligently complying with stay-at-home rules. Thankfully, this has not interfered with #SCOTX work, as the Court is working remotely. We are grateful for your thoughts and prayers."

Lehrmann is the first high-ranking state official with a known case of COVID-19, The Dallas Morning-News reported. She and her husband were tested at an Austin drive-through testing center last week after suffering fevers and body aches, she said.

"We were just extremely careful – and then we get it," she told The Morning-News. "How in the world would that happen? We have no idea. All I know is it must be very contagious."

The Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments via video conferencing Wednesday in a case involving Cameron, Dallas, El Paso, Harris and Travis counties that would expand who is eligible to vote by mail if the court agrees that a lack of immunity to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 qualifies as a disability under Texas election law. Lehrmann participated in the hearing.

Cases over the right to vote by mail in Texas are continuing in both state and federal courts. Texas is scheduled to hold primary runoff elections on July 14.

Jobless Claims. More than 2.4 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending May 16, down 249,000 claims from the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department reported today. About 38.6 million people have now filed jobless claims since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic began widely disrupting the economy. In Texas, 134,381 people filed for unemployment, a decrease of 7,172 applications from the week before. Roughly 2.1 million Texans have unemployment aid the past two months.

In a Census Bureau survey released Wednesday, 47% of respondents 18 and over said they either have lost employment income or they live with another adult who has lost income since March 13. And on Tuesday, in its latest economic outlook for 2020 and 2021, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the nation's gross domestic product will shrink at an 38% annual rate in this year's second quarter.

All 50 states are now gradually reopening their economies, but a quick recovery appears unlikely, according to many analysts. "Our data is suggesting this recovery is going to take a while," David Gilbertson, an executive at Kronos, a software company that tracks 3 million hourly workers, told The Associated Press.

Outbreak in the Panhandle. While the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the Panhandle in and around Amarillo, health officials say the city's hospitals have seen a steady decline in COVID-19 patients, indicating that hospitalizations have peaked, Amarillo's KFDA-TV reported. "I remain concerned, but it seems the trends are headed in the right direction," Dr. Scott Milton, the city’s public health authority, said during a news conference Wednesday.

Meatpacking plants have contributed to a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Amarillo region. As a result, Gov. Greg Abbott exempted the Panhandle counties of Potter, Randall, Moore and Deaf Smith from the second phase of his reopening process for Texas businesses, delaying their next-phase reopening by a week to May 29. El Paso County also is on the list.

Gubernatorial Actions. Gov. Abbott made several coronavirus-related announcements today:

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas is currently reporting 52,268 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,440 deaths, up 945 cases and 21 deaths from Wednesday, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 225 of Texas' 254 counties.

Texas was one of at least four states that combined data from COVID-19 diagnostic tests and antibody tests, potentially providing an inaccurate picture of the coronavirus' spread over time, CNN reported today. Texas has moved to exclude antibody testing when calculating its positivity rate, according to the Department of State Health Services.

Nationwide, 1,551,095 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 93,061 have died, an increase of 22,860 cases and 1,397 deaths from Wednesday, according to the CDC. Twenty-nine states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC reported.

An interactive map created by The Associated Press allows users to track up-to-date COVID-19 data at the county level. "You can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you're worried about live," AP says.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 20, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, citing the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, sent a letter to state agencies and institutions of higher education today instructing them to each submit a plan by June 15 to cut their budgets by 5% for the current biennium. The state's top officials exempted several agencies and programs from the cuts, including the Texas Department of State Health services, the Texas Workforce Commission, Child Protective Services and the Department of Public Safety.

"As Texans recover from this pandemic, it is incumbent that state government continues to maintain mission critical services without placing a greater burden on taxpayers," the letter reads. "We are confident that Texas will get back to work and continue leading the nation in job growth, economic innovation, and business creation. However, it will take months until we know the true extent of the economic ramifications of COVID-19, and how combating this virus will impact state finances. To prepare for this economic shock, we must take action today to ensure that the state can continue providing the essential government services that Texans expect."

Mail-In Voting. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals this afternoon temporarily blocked Tuesday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San Antonio that all Texas voters regardless of age are eligible to apply for a mail-in ballot. In his decision, Biery agreed with the Texas Democratic Party and a handful of individual voters that the state's rules governing voting by mail would impose an illegal burden on voters fearful of contracting the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The appeals court panel issued an administrative stay that keeps Biery's order from taking effect while the court weighs whether to issue an actual stay during its deliberations on the merits of the case, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Texas holds primary runoff and special elections July 14. The state's election law limits voting by mail to Texans who are 65 or older, have a disability, will be out of their home county during the voting period or are in jail but eligible to vote.

Critics argue that expanding mail-in voting will invite voter fraud. In his ruling, Biery colorfully dismissed the claim, citing scant evidence provided by the state: "The Court finds the Grim Reaper's scepter of pandemic disease and death is far more serious than an unsupported fear of voter fraud in this sui generis experience. Indeed, if vote by mail fraud is real, logic dictates that all voting should be in person."

In a related case, the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments this afternoon in a case out of Travis County that would expand access to mail-in ballots. In April, state District Judge Tim Sulak ruled that vulnerability to contracting COVID-19 meets the state's definition of a disability as a "sickness or physical condition" that prevents a voter from going to the polls. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has argued that fear of getting COVID-19 doesn't qualify as a disability under state law.

Property Taxes. Senate Bill 2, passed last year by the Texas Legislature, requires voter approval before local governments can raise property taxes by more than 3.5%. But can local governments bypass the law's limits under Gov. Greg Abbott's COVID-19 disaster declaration? "We're looking at that now just because we're anticipating that question coming," Attorney General Ken Paxton told Lubbock radio host Chad Hasty on Tuesday. "But we haven’t made any kind of determination yet as to what the answer is."

Meanwhile, Abbott responded to a letter sent last week by members of the Texas Democratic congressional delegation asking him "to suspend any raises, interest and penalties on Texas property taxes for the current taxable year" with a letter of his own. "Property owners shouldn’t be saddled with rising property taxes while dealing with a pandemic," Abbott said in a statement, adding a reminder that local governments set property rates, not the state.

Coronavirus Clusters. Construction workers account for 19 of 36 coronavirus clusters that Travis County health officials are tracking in industries outside of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to a report by the American-Statesman. Dr. Mark Escott, interim director of the Austin-Travis County health authority, called the number of clusters in the construction industry worrisome.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas is currently reporting 51,323 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,419 deaths, up 1,411 cases and 50 deaths from Tuesday, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 225 of Texas' 254 counties, up one county from the day before.

The state reports that 770,241 Texans have been tested for COVID-19. The rolling average rate of positive tests over the past seven days is 4.7%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There are an estimated 19,664 active COVID-19 cases in Texas, with 1,791 patients currently in hospitals – a 9.1% hospitalization rate.

In an article for Real Clear Politics, analyst Sean Trende sorts through Texas' pandemic statistics to argue for the importance of getting it right when reporting COVID-19 case numbers, positivity rates and trailing indicators.

Nationwide, 1,528,235 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 91,664 have died, an increase of 23,405 cases and 1,324 deaths from Tuesday, according to the CDC. Twenty-nine states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC reported.

An interactive map created by The Associated Press allows users to track up-to-date COVID-19 data at the county level. "You can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you're worried about live," AP says.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 19, 2020

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued guidelines Monday that recommend governors follow a cautious, three-phase course when deciding to relax efforts to limit COVID-19 exposure in nursing homes, which along with meatpacking plants and jails and prisons have become coronavirus hot spots. States shouldn't implement the third phase until all nursing home residents and employees have tested negative for COVID-19 for at least 28 days, the guidelines say.

Gov. Greg Abbott last week directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services to develop and implement a plan for testing all residents and staff in Texas nursing homes. He also announced that disinfection teams with the Texas National Guard, formed in coordination with the Health and Human Services Commission, have been deployed to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

Child Care Subsidies. The Texas Workforce Commission has voted to pull back on child care subsidies for essential workers and low-income parents, The Texas Tribune reported today. Essential workers have through Wednesday to apply for three months of subsidized child care, The Texas Tribune reported, while low-income parents have to resume paying their share of subsidized child care starting June 1.

The commission's decision comes the day after Gov. Abbott announced the second phase of his plan to reopen Texas businesses. Child care centers were allowed to open effective Monday, the governor said.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas is currently reporting 49,912 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,369 deaths, up 1,219 cases and 22 deaths from Monday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 224 of Texas' 254 counties, up two counties from the day before.

The state reports that 744,937 Texans have been tested for COVID-19. The average rate of positive tests over the past seven days is 4.5%. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There are an estimated 19,280 active COVID-19 cases in Texas, with 1,732 patients currently in hospitals – an 9% hospitalization rate.

The state estimates that 29,359 Texans have recovered from COVID-19. In a story published Monday, The Texas Tribune explained some of the assumptions behind this seemingly bit of good news, which Gov. Abbott has mentioned often in his news conferences, and why many other states don't report recovery numbers.

Nationwide, 1,504,830 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 90,340 have died, an increase of 24,481 cases and 933 deaths from Monday, according to the CDC. Twenty-nine states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC reported.

An interactive map created by The Associated Press allows users to track up-to-date COVID-19 data at the county level. "You can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you’re worried about live," AP says.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 18, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott today announced the next phase in reopening Texas businesses. Effective today, child care centers, youth clubs and personal-care businesses can reopen, Abbott said. The governor previously had allowed gyms, nonessential manufacturing and work offices to open today; hair salons, barbershops and nail and tanning salons to open on May 8; and restaurants, movie theaters, retail stores and malls to open on May 1.

Bars, bowling alleys, bingo halls, skating rinks, zoos and aquariums can reopen Friday, Abbott said. Day and overnight youth camps can open May 31. Professional sports without in-person spectators also can resume May 31. And school districts can offer summer school classes if they want starting June 1.

Capacity, social distancing protocols and other restrictions will remain in place, though restaurants can expand from 25% to 50% capacity starting Friday, Abbott said.

"Our goal is to find ways to coexist with COVID-19 as safe as possible," Abbott said.

The latest reopening schedule won't apply statewide, the governor said. The Amarillo and El Paso regions have experienced spikes in COVID-19 cases. Plans to reopen businesses in those areas will be pushed back one week, Abbott said.

Outbreak in the Panhandle. Moore County, north of Amarillo, has the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the state. Nine county residents have died of the illness, including the Dumas chief of police, Marvin Trejo. Moore County also is the home of JBS Beef, one of the state's largest meatpacking plants, with about 3,000 employees. "No communities in America are being more sorely tested by a pandemic with no certain end or outcome than those at once sustained and threatened by a slaughterhouse in their midst," the Austin American-Statesman reported Sunday.

Meatpacking plants are coronavirus hot spots. This weekend, more than 700 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the Amarillo area where several slaughterhouses are located. Gov. Abbott released a statement Saturday on the response by the state's "surge response" teams.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas currently is reporting 48,693 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,347 deaths – an increase of 909 cases and 11 deaths from Sunday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 222 of Texas' 254 counties.

In his news conferences, Gov. Abbott focuses on two metrics: the positivity rate and hospital capacity. A total of 723,013 Texans has been tested thus far for COVID-19. The average rate of positive tests over the past seven days is 4.5%, according to state figures. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There are an estimated 19,065 active COVID-19 cases in Texas, with 1,551 patients currently in hospitals – an 8.1% hospitalization rate.

Nationwide, a total of 1,480,349 people has tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 89,407 have died, an increase of 13,284 cases and 698 deaths from Sunday, according to the CDC. Twenty-nine states are now reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC reported.

An interactive map created by The Associated Press allows users to track up-to-date COVID-19 data at the county level. "You can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you're worried about live," AP says.

Mail-In Voting. The Texas Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday afternoon on expanding voting by mail. On Friday, the state Supreme Court granted Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request to stay an appeals court order that would have allowed lack of immunity to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to qualify as a disability under the state's election code.

According to Texas election laws, voters may receive a mail-in ballot if they are 65 or older, have a disability, will be out of the county during the voting period or are in jail but eligible to vote. In April, Travis County state District Judge Tim Sulak ruled that vulnerability to contracting COVID-19 meets the state's definition of a disability as a "sickness or physical condition" that prevents a voter from going to the polls. Paxton has appealed Sulak's ruling and had argued that the order should be put on hold pending his appeal.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 15, 2020

The Democratic-controlled House today is expected to pass a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that would send nearly $1 trillion to state and local governments, The Associated Press reported. Today's vote is expected to break along party lines and the bill, whose price tag exceeds the combined cost of the previous four measures passed by Congress, is considered to be dead on arrival in the Republican-led Senate. President Donald Trump also has threatened to veto the bill should it reach his desk.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he's open to another coronavirus relief bill. A Republican priority is limiting legal liability for companies reopening for business but it's not clear when talks with Democrats and the White House on another package will begin.

The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved in March included $150 billion for state and local governments, with about $11.24 billion allocated for Texas. Of that amount, $5.06 billion was set aside to help local governments meet COVID-19 expenses.

Only cities and counties with populations larger than 500,000 were eligible to receive money directly from the U.S. Treasury Department, however – a criterion that excluded 242 of Texas' 254 counties. Just over $3.2 billion went straight to cities and counties that met the population threshold. Counties with populations below 500,000 are eligible to apply with the state for a share of the remaining $1.85 billion available to local governments in Texas.

Treasury Department guidelines say money from the CARES Act can be used only for expenses incurred dealing with the pandemic from March 1 through Dec. 30; they prohibit local governments from using federal relief to cover revenue shortfalls. The Texas Association of Counties has joined with the National Association of Counties and other organizations representing local governments to call for direct, flexible funding to counties and cities of all sizes.

Paxton Seeks Stay of Order on Mail-In Voting. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the Texas Supreme Court to immediately stay an order issued Thursday by the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston that let stand a temporary injunction expanding mail-in voting in Travis County, Paxton's office announced today in a press release. Paxton also petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to uphold the state's right to stay temporary injunctions from lower courts upon filing an appeal.

According to Texas election laws, voters may receive a mail-in ballot if they are 65 or older, have a disability, will be out of the county during the voting period or are in jail but eligible to vote. In April, Travis County state District Judge Tim Sulak ruled a person's lack of immunity to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 meets the state's definition of a disability as a "sickness or physical condition" that prevents a voter who fears catching COVID-19 from going to the polls. Paxton has appealed Sulak's ruling and had argued that the order should be put on hold pending his appeal.

CDC Reopening Guidance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published six, one-page "decision tool" flow charts to help workplaces, schools, bars and restaurants, child care centers, youth programs and camps, and mass transit systems as they consider reopening from coronavirus shutdowns. Guidance for house of worship – a reported point of contention between the White House and the CDC – was not among the documents posted Thursday.

Silence Is Golden … and Virus-Free. A new National Institutes of Health study says that talking can cause thousands of "oral fluid droplets" to stay suspended in the air for up to 14 minutes. "Speech droplets generated by asymptomatic carriers" of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 "are increasingly considered to be a likely mode of disease transmission" in confined places, the study says.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas currently is reporting 45,198 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,272 deaths – an increase of 1,347 cases and 56 deaths from Thursday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 222 of Texas' 254 counties, up three counties from the day before.

A total of 645,992 Texans have been tested thus far for COVID-19. The rate of positive tests over the past seven days is 5.1%, according to state figures. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There are an estimated 18,472 active COVID-19 cases in Texas, with 1,716 patients currently in hospitals – a 9.3% hospitalization rate.

Nationwide, a total of 1,384,930 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday and 83,947 have died, an increase of 20,869 cases and 1,701 deaths from Wednesday, according to the CDC. Twenty-eight states are now reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC reported.

Tracking the Coronavirus. An interactive map created by The Associated Press allows users to access up-to-date COVID-19 data at the county level. "You can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you're worried about live," AP says.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 14, 2020

A three-judge panel of the state's 14th Court of Appeals in Houston today left in place an April ruling by Travis County state District Judge Tim Sulak that people who fear catching COVID-19 at the polls are eligible to receive a mail-in ballot.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has appealed Sulak's ruling and had argued that the order should be put on hold pending his appeal. Today's 2-1 appeals court ruling leaves Sulak's decision in force while Paxton's appeal continues. Chief Justice Kem Thompson Frost dissented.

"We look forward to the Texas Supreme Court resolving this issue," Paxton's office said.

On Wednesday, Paxton asked the Texas Supreme Court to order election officials in Cameron, Dallas, El Paso, Harris and Travis counties to reject applications for mail-in ballots from people who fear catching COVID-19 if they vote in person. Paxton's petition asks the court to rule within 14 days because runoff and special elections scheduled for July 14 are fast approaching.

His petition to the state Supreme Court is separate from his appeal of Sulak's ruling.

"It is unfortunate that certain county election officials have refused to perform their duties and have instead unlawfully gone beyond the Legislature's determination of who is eligible to vote by mail," Paxton said in a statement released by his office.

According to Texas election laws, voters may receive a mail-in ballot if they are 65 or older, have a disability, will be out of the county during the voting period or are in jail but eligible to vote. Sulak said the lack of immunity to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 meets the state's definition of a disability as a "sickness or physical condition" that prevents a voter from going to the polls. Paxton says state law does not consider fear of exposure to the coronavirus a disability.

County election officials say training provided by the Texas secretary of state's office discourages them from investigating a voter's claim of disability, nor is it clear how they easily would do so. When an application for a mail-in ballot arrives, "I have no grounds on which to evaluate it," Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir told the Austin American-Statesman.

More Reopening Plans to Come. Gov. Greg Abbott said he will announce more plans to reopen businesses in Texas on Monday, The Texas Tribune reported today, pointing to interviews the governor did Wednesday evening with KETK in Tyler and WOAI in San Antonio.

"Part of what we seek to do this coming Monday is seek to get the advice of our four-doctor medical team about safe ways that current businesses may be allowed to open up even further and safe ways that certain businesses that are not open may be allowed to open," Abbott told WOAI. "So we are still providing information to our medial team, getting advice back from our medical team, and we will be making these decisions here in the coming days."

"We're opening Texas as fast as possible while also containing the spread of COVID-19," Abbott said on KETK.

The governor pointed to nursing homes, prisons and meatpacking plants as "the three areas where about 50% or more" of the COVID-19 deaths in Texas have occurred. "As far as hospitalization is concerned, as far as death is concerned, things are looking very good in East Texas as well as the entire state of Texas."

Weekly Jobless Claims. The U.S. Labor Department reported today that 2.98 million Americans had applied for unemployment benefits for the week ending May 9, a decrease of 195,000 claims from the previous week. The number of Texans filing unemployment claims last week was 141,672, down 102,263 applications from the previous week.

While the pace of job losses appears to be slowing, companies continue to lay off employees in response to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. About 36 million people nationwide and 1.9 million in Texas have filed for unemployment aid in the eight weeks since states and local governments began issuing stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Update: Meatpacking Plant and COVID-19 Testing. The Texas Tribune reported Wednesday that the JBS Beef meatpacking plant in Moore County north of Amarillo had rejected the state's offer to test all of its employees for COVID-19. Several hours after the story appeared, the company changed its mind and said it would work with state health officials to start testing its roughly 3,000 workers, The Texas Tribune reported.

Gov. Abbott recently created "surge response teams" to respond to outbreaks of COVID-19 in places like meatpacking plants. As of Monday, 323 people with ties to the JBS plant have tested positive for COVID-19, The Texas Tribune reported, and Moore County has the state's highest known coronavirus infection rate, with 24.5 infections per 1,000 residents.

Actions and Reactions. Attorney General Paxton, Gov. Abbott and other Republican leaders have criticized or overruled orders and actions by cities and counties – mostly those controlled by Democratic leaders – designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. But perhaps no county official has faced a more vocal negative reaction for how she's handled the pandemic than Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. In a profile of the 29-year-old, first-term county judge, The Texas Tribune looks at the steps Hidalgo has taken to mitigate the threat of COVID-19 in Harris County, where new cases of COVID-19 have plateaued, and the backlash generated by some of her actions.

COVID-19 Case Counts. As of Wednesday, Texas was reporting 42,403 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,158 deaths – an increase of 1,355 cases and 25 deaths from Tuesday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 219 of Texas' 254 counties, up one county from the day before.

The rate of positive tests over the past seven days is 5.4%, according to state figures. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There were an estimated 17,726 active COVID-19 cases in Texas as of Wednesday, with 1,676 patients currently in hospitals – a 9.5% hospitalization rate.

Nationwide, a total of 1,364,061 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday and 82,246 have died, an increase of 21,467 cases and 1,426 deaths from Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-eight states are now reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, an increase of two from the day before, the CDC reported.

Tracking the Coronavirus. An interactive map created by The Associated Press allows users to access up-to-date COVID-19 data at the county level. "You can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you're worried about live," AP says.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 13, 2020

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office sent letters to the county judges of Bexar, Dallas and Travis counties Tuesday as well as the mayors of Austin and San Antonio warning them that their latest stay-at-home orders conflict with Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order easing restrictions on certain businesses and activities. The letters threaten legal action if the cities and counties fail to "act quickly to correct" their orders related to wearing masks, sheltering in place and religious services.

"Unfortunately, a few Texas counties and cities seem to have confused recommendations with requirements and have grossly exceeded state law to impose their own will on private citizens and businesses. These letters seek to avoid any public confusion as we reopen the state," Paxton said in a statement.

The letters' recipients stressed that they wrote their orders to align with the governor's. Dallas County based its guidelines on Abbott’s recommendations, "never imagining he did not want his own guidelines followed," Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement.

Austin's "order complements, incorporates, and does not conflict with the Governor’s order," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a text message to the Austin American-Statesman. "We will continue working to keep our community safe to the fullest extent allowed by law."

Paxton's "interpretation is, according to his letter, that anybody can do anything they want to do," Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff told the San Antonio Express-News. "With respect to masks and with respect to social distancing, that's a big mistake. We don't think that’s what the governor wants us to do."

Meatpacking Plant Rejects State's Testing Offer. Workers at the JBS Beef meatpacking plant in Moore County north of Amarillo aren’t being systematically tested for COVID-19 because the company has rejected the state's offer to test all 3,000 of its employees, The Texas Tribune reported Wednesday. As of Monday, 323 people with ties to the JBS plant have tested positive for COVID-19.

Local, state and company officials are continuing to discuss the issue, a spokesperson for the Texas Division of Emergency Management told The Texas Tribune. A company spokesperson said JBS Beef would "continue collaborating with local health and government officials. Given that the coronavirus is a community-wide issue, we would actively encourage our team members to participate in a community testing program, should one become available."

Gov. Abbott recently created "surge response teams" to respond to outbreaks of COVID-19 in places like meatpacking plants, nursing homes and prisons. Moore County has the state's highest known coronavirus infection rate, with 24.5 infections per 1,000 residents.

COVID-19 Disaster Declaration. Gov. Abbott has extended the state's disaster declaration for all Texas counties another 30 days, his office announced Tuesday. The extension will allow Texas to continue using resources needed to contain the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Abbott first issued the declaration on March 13 and renewed it April 12.

Disinfecting Nursing Homes. Gov. Abbott announced today that disinfection teams with the Texas National Guard, formed in coordination with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, have been activated to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes. Six teams have been mobilized, the governor said in a statement, with more to come.

Abbott announced on Monday that he had directed the Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services to develop and implement a plan for testing all residents and staff in Texas nursing homes. Deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities represent about 45% of all COVID-19 deaths in Texas, according to state figures.

COVID-19 Testing in Prisons. Texas prisoners have begun testing themselves for COVID-19 with an oral fluid test approved last month by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced Tuesday. So far, less than 2% of prisoners in the state have been tested for COVID-19, The Texas Tribune reported.

To date, a total of 1,733 inmates and 652 employees or contractors have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the department. Thirty prisoners and seven staff members have died.

COVID-19 Case Counts. As of Tuesday, Texas was reporting 41,048 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,133 deaths – an increase of 1,179 cases and 33 deaths from Monday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 220 of Texas' 254 counties, up one county from the day before.

The rate of positive tests over the past seven days is 6.9%, according to state figures. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely.

There were an estimated 17,241 active COVID-19 cases in Texas as of Tuesday, with 1,676 patients currently in hospitals – a 9.7% hospitalization rate.

Nationwide, a total of 1,342,594 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of May 12 and 80,820 have died, an increase of 18,106 cases and 1,064 deaths from May 11, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-six states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the same number as the day before, the CDC reported.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


May 12, 2020

Texas counties with populations under 500,000 are eligible to apply for a share of $1.85 billion in federal funding available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Gov. Greg Abbott and several other state leaders announced in a letter sent to city and county leaders.

The $2.2 trillion CARES Act, enacted in March, set aside $150 billion for state and local governments, with about $11.24 billion allocated for Texas. Of that amount, $5.06 billion was set aside to help local governments meet COVID-19 expenses incurred from March 1 through Dec. 30.

The U.S. Treasury Department has sent just over $3.2 billion of the $5.06 billion directly to six cities (Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio) and 12 counties (Bexar, Collin, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Bend, Harris, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Tarrant, Travis and Williamson) with populations greater than 500,000. The state is making the remaining $1.85 billion available to local governments with populations below 500,000 on a $55 per capita allocation.

More information and application guidance can be found on the Texas Division of Emergency Management's website.

Treasury Department guidelines restrict how states and local governments can use the $150 billion provided by the CARES Act, and none of the money is sent directly to counties and cities with populations below 500,000. Governors and mayors nationwide have called in recent weeks for more substantial federal relief and greater flexibility in its use. The National Association of Counties and the Texas Association of Counties have joined with other organizations representing local governments to call for direct, flexible funding to counties and cities of all sizes.

Additional Aid for State and Local Governments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposed a $3 trillion COVID-19 relief package today that provides about $1 trillion for state and local governments, which have suffered huge coronavirus-related revenue losses and expenses. The measure also includes "hazard pay" for essential workers and a new round of direct payments to individuals, The Associated Press reported.

The Democratic-led House is expected to vote on the bill on Friday, though the package will be considered dead on arrival in the Republican-led U.S. Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there is no urgency to act. The Senate will not act on another relief package under after Memorial Day, AP reported.

COVID-19 Testing in Nursing Homes. The White House hosted a video conference call with governors on Monday and recommended states test all nursing home residents and workers for COVID-19 in the next two weeks. A few hours later, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services to develop and implement a plan for testing all residents and staff in Texas nursing homes, Abbott’s office announced in a press release.

Deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities represent about 40% of all COVID-19 deaths in Texas, according to state figures. Nationwide, nursing home residents and workers account for about a third of all COVID-19 deaths, according to an AP report.

El Paso Seeks an Exemption. El Paso officials sent a letter to Gov. Abbot on Monday asking him to exempt El Paso from upcoming orders related to reopening Texas businesses, the El Paso Times reported. The letter, signed by El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, county commissioners, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, El Paso state legislators and other local officials, cited the county's increasing number of COVID-19 cases and their disproportionate impact on minority populations, low testing rates and El Paso’s location in a multiregional area as reasons why the governor should let El Paso maintain its current restrictions.

As of Monday, there were 1,340 cases of COVID-19 in El Paso County, according to state figures. There have been 33 deaths.

COVID-19 Case Counts. As of Monday, Texas was reporting 39,869 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,100 deaths, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 219 of Texas' 254 counties.

Nationwide, a total of 1,342,594 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of today and 80,820 have died, an increase of 18,106 cases and 1,064 deaths from Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-six states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the same number as the day before, the CDC reported.

'It Became Real.' For many rural residents of Texas, COVID-19 might still feel a world away. For the residents of Oldham County west of Amarillo, the death of 39-year-old B’Anna Scroggins on March 24 brought the pandemic painfully close to home, the Abilene Reporter-News reported.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 11, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott frequently has cited a handful of COVID-19 metrics, including a falling positivity rate among those who have been tested for COVID-19 and the number of available hospital beds and ventilators, to justify his executive orders to begin reopening the state's economy. And by several measures, Texas is faring better during the COVID-19 pandemic than many other states, the Austin American-Statesman reported this weekend in an article exploring what the COVID-19 numbers tell us.

However, Texas has not shown a clear downward trend in the number of new cases reported each day, the American-Statesman reported, citing data collected by Texas 2036, a nonprofit organization that has been looking at how Texas and Texas counties measure against reopening guidelines released by the White House in April. The Trump administration recommends a 14-day decline in the number of new cases before easing restrictions on businesses and activities. Texas, like many other states, has moved to reopen without meeting this White House threshold.

And epidemiologists? What are they interested in monitoring? "In general, in an outbreak, we care about absolute numbers not rates," University of Texas biologist Claus Wilke told the American-Statesman, "because if your absolute numbers are large your outbreak is not contained."

Texas is currently reporting 39,869 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,100 deaths – an increase of 1,000 cases and 12 deaths from Sunday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 219 of Texas' 254 counties.

The rate of positive tests over the past seven days is 6.4%, according to state figures. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen.

There are an estimated 17,056 active COVID-19 cases in Texas, with 1,525 patients currently in hospitals – an 8.9% hospitalization rate.

Nationwide, a total of 1,300,696 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of May 10 and 78,771 have died, an increase of 26,660 cases and 1,737 deaths from the previous day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-four states are now reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC reported.

COVID-19 Testing in Nursing Homes. In a video conference call with governors today, the Trump administration recommended that all nursing home residents and workers be tested for COVID-19 in the next two weeks, The Associated Press reported. Nursing home residents are at high risk for infection and death from COVID-19. Deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities represent more than 40% of all COVID-19 deaths in Texas, according to state figures.

'Deaths of Despair' From COVID-19. In addition to the tens of thousands of Americans who will die of COVID-19 and related complications, another 27,000 to 154,000 could lose their lives to what have become known as "deaths of despair," according to a new study by the Well Being Trust and the American Academy of Family Physicians. An increase in deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide related to isolation, unemployment and uncertainty about how and when the pandemic will end can be expected in the decade to come, the study says, and "should be seen as the epidemic within the pandemic."

The study's authors warn that their report "is not a call to suddenly reopen the country." On the contrary, they write; science and data should determine the pace of the nation’s economic reopening. "Deaths of despair were a problem before COVID-19, just as health disparities were also a problem prior to COVID-19." What is needed, they argue, are comprehensive policies that fully address the social, economic and health-related issues that surround deaths of despair.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 8, 2020

While Texans can begin getting their hair cut and nails done starting today, they might have to go somewhere other than their usual barber or salon. Like last week, when logistical and financial considerations forced many restaurants to keep their dining rooms closed for the time being and most theaters remained dark because Hollywood isn't releasing new movies, some barbershops and salons with locations in several Texas cities told the Austin American-Statesman they will remain closed for another week or so until they’re sure they can reopen safely.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Tuesday increasing the businesses allowed to reopen with capacity and social distancing restrictions to include barbershops and hair, nail and tanning salons. Last week, the governor announced that restaurants, movie theaters, retail stores and malls could reopen at 25% capacity starting May 1.

President Donald Trump praised Abbott's decisions to reopen certain businesses in Texas. "He's done a phenomenal job," Trump said during a meeting with Abbott at the White House on Thursday.

Jobless Rate. More than 20 million jobs were lost in April, the U.S. Labor Department reported today, raising the national unemployment rate to 14.7%, a level not seen since the 1930s. In February, the unemployment rate was 3.5%, a 50-year low.

The actual jobless rate is worse -- somewhere near 20%. The COVID-19 pandemic and a classification error affected April's data collection, the Labor Department said.

A Question of Enforcement. The case of Shelley Luther, the Dallas hair stylist who was released from jail Thursday after she became a cause celebre for Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton and other state leaders, has raised questions about the practical local enforcement of Gov. Abbott’s COVID-19 orders.

State District Judge Eric Moye found Luther in contempt of court on Tuesday and sentenced her to seven days in jail after she defied statewide orders to keep her business closed, publicly tore up a cease-and-desist letter from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and ignored a temporary restraining order from Moye. On Thursday, Abbott rewrote his executive orders related to the coronavirus pandemic to prohibit local officials from jailing anyone for violating the various COVID-19 restrictions he has issued over the past several weeks. The Texas Supreme Court later ordered Dallas County officials to free Luther.

Luther's case and the rule of law was the subject of several editorials, columns and op-eds published late Thursday or today, including in the Austin American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning-News and the Houston Chronicle.

COVID-19 Deaths in Texas Exceed 1,000. The total number of COVID-19 deaths in Texas has surpassed 1,000. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, a total of 1,004 COVID-19 patients have died statewide, an increase of 31 deaths from Thursday. Texas currently is reporting a cumulative total of 36,609 cases, up 1,217 cases from Thursday.

At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 219 of Texas' 254 counties, up two counties from the day before.

Gov. Abbott says he is focused on two metrics: the state's positive test rate and the hospitalization rate. The state's seven-day positivity rate is 5.9%, the Department of State Health Services reported today. Some public health experts consider a positivity rate of 10% a red line.

The state estimates there are 16,408 active COVID-19 cases, with 1,734 patients currently in Texas hospitals – a 10.6% hospitalization rate.

Nationwide, a total of 1,219,066 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of May 7 and 73,297 have died, an increase of 25,253 cases and 2,495 deaths from the previous day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-two states are now reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 – up one state from May 6, the CDC reported.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 7, 2020

The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Dallas County officials to release salon owner Shelley Luther from jail pending a final ruling on her case. State District Judge Eric Moye had found Luther in contempt of court this week and sentenced her to seven days in jail after she defied statewide orders to keep her business closed and ignored a cease-and-desist letter from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and a temporary restraining order from Moye.

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton and other top Texas officials quickly rallied to Luther's cause. Shortly before the Texas Supreme Court ordered Luther free, Abbott revised his executive orders related to the coronavirus pandemic to prohibit local officials from jailing anyone for violating the various COVID-19 restrictions he has issued over the past several weeks. Abbott's rewrite applies retroactively.

"Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen," Abbott said in a statement. "That is why I am modifying my executive orders to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order."

On Tuesday, Abbott announced that barbershops and hair, nail and tanning salons can reopen Friday, with capacity and social distancing restrictions, as part of an executive order expanding the statewide reopening of businesses and activities.

Weekly Jobless Claims. The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that 3.17 million Americans had applied for unemployment benefits for the week ending May 2, a decrease of 677,000 claims from the previous week. The number of Texans filing unemployment claims was 247,179, down 6,905 applications from the previous week.

Initial jobless claims nationally have fallen for five straight weeks from a peak of 6.9 million during the week that ended March 28. Still, about 33.5 million people nationwide and 1.8 million in Texas have filed for unemployment aid in the seven weeks since states and local governments began issuing stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Disaster Crisis Counseling Services. Gov. Abbott announced on Wednesday that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission had received $5.8 million in federal funding to help Texans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic access counseling services. A list of available resources can be found on Health and Human Services' Mental Health & Substance Use Resources web page.

COVID-19 Case Counts. The cumulative total of COVID-19 cases in Texas currently stands at 35,390, with 973 deaths, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services -- an increase of 973 cases and 25 deaths from Wednesday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 217 of Texas' 254 counties, up one county from the day before.

The state says there are 15,977 active cases of COVID-19, with 1,750 patients currently in Texas hospitals – a 10.9% hospitalization rate.

A total of 455,162 tests have been conducted statewide since the pandemic began. The cumulative percentage of tests that are positive for COVID-19 is currently 7.8%.

Nationwide, a total of 1,193,813 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of May 6 and 70,802 have died, up 22,303 cases and 2,523 deaths since May 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-one states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 – up one state from the previous day, the CDC says.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 6, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott held a busy news conference in Austin on Tuesday during which he announced he was allowing barbershops and hair, nail and tanning salons to reopen Friday and gyms to reopen May 18, with capacity and social distancing restrictions. Abbott also said non-essential manufacturers and businesses in office buildings can reopen May 18 -- again with capacity and social distancing protocols in place.

Though he didn't mention them Tuesday, Abbott’s decision to expand the openings of businesses and activities includes swimming pools. Bars, however, will remain closed until the state figures out how they can reopen safely.

The governor also clarified what was allowed under the executive order he issued last week that allowed restaurants, movie theaters, stores, malls, libraries and museums to reopen at 25% capacity on May 1. Wedding venues can reopen, Abbott said, as long as they follow the same standards required of religious services – and of restaurants in the case of wedding receptions. And a restaurant's outdoor seating must follow the same social distancing rules that apply to its indoor seating.

COVID-19 Case Counts. Last week, when he announced his "phase one" order, Abbott said the earliest that additional businesses such as hair salons could reopen would be May 18. Before the second phase of his plan to reopen the state's economy could begin, Abbott said, he wanted to wait two weeks after the first phase started to make sure the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was continuing to slow in Texas.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has reported more than 1,000 new cases on six of the past seven days. There previously had been only two days with more than 1,000 new cases – on April 8 and April 10.

There have been a total of 34,422 COVID-19 cases in Texas to date, with 948 deaths -- an increase of 1,053 cases and 42 deaths from Tuesday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 216 of Texas' 254 counties.

Abbott repeated Tuesday that he is focused on the percentage of Texans testing positive for COVID-19 and the state's hospitalization rate rather the number of COVID-19 cases, which has gone up as testing has increased. The cumulative percentage of tests that are positive for COVID-19 is currently 7.8%. Abbott said 10% is considered a "red line."

The state says there are 15,852 active cases of COVID-19, with 1,812 patients currently in Texas hospitals – an 11.4% hospitalization rate. Abbott said Tuesday that the percentage of confirmed COVID-19 patients who need to be hospitalized has remained more or less steady since the pandemic began and hasn’t threatened the state's hospital capacity.

Nationwide, a total of 1,171,510 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 68,279 have died, up 19,138 cases and 823 deaths since May 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 -- no change from the previous day, the CDC says.

'Surge Response Teams.' Gov. Abbott also said he had put together "surge response teams" made up of health officials, emergency response workers and members of the National Guard to send to areas experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases. Abbott announced Tuesday that he had deployed a team to the Panhandle to deal with an increase in new COVID-19 cases tied to meatpacking plants.

Graduation Ceremonies. In addition to the governor's announcements, the Texas Education Agency released guidelines for school districts to hold socially distanced graduation ceremonies. The options include virtual celebrations, "drive-in" ceremonies or outdoors ceremonies starting June 1.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 5, 2020

Texas barbershops and hair and nail salons that follow distancing standards and other restrictions can reopen Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott said today during a news conference in Austin. Abbott also said gyms that follow certain rules will be allowed to reopen May 18, though gym showers and locker rooms must remain closed for the time being.

In addition, the governor clarified some aspects of the executive order he issued last week. Among the clarifications: The standards that apply to church services also apply to funerals, memorials, burials and weddings; the same standards that apply to parks apply to beaches, lakes and rivers; and outdoor seating areas at restaurants should follow indoor capacity standards.

Abbott said his team is still working on ways to establish safe practices for bars. Until then, they will remain closed.

Abbott is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday to discuss Texas' response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Texas Tribune reported today. Last week, Trump praised Abbott's decision to let stores, malls, restaurants and movie theaters reopen at 25% capacity.

Texas COVID-19 Case Counts. Texas is currently reporting 33,369 total cases of COVID-19 and 906 deaths -- an increase of 1,037 cases and 22 deaths from Monday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 216 of Texas' 254 counties – up three counties from the day before.

During his news conference Tuesday, Gov. Abbott said the COVID-19 positivity rate is "one of the most important data points that we look at." The percentage of people tested for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 who have tested positive is consistently below the "red flag" figure of 10%, Abbott said.

A total of 427,210 tests have been conducted statewide since the pandemic began. The cumulative percentage of tests that are positive for COVID-19 is currently 7.6%.

Another important number, Abbott said, is the state's hospitalization rate. While the hospitalization numbers fluctuate each day, the governor said, the percentage of confirmed COVID-19 patients who need to be hospitalized has remained more or less steady and hasn’t threatened the state's hospital capacity.

Nationwide, a total of 1,171,510 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 68,279 have died, up 19,138 cases and 823 deaths since May 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 -- no change from the previous day, the CDC says.

Coronavirus Policy Response Simulator. Texas is one of numerous states that have begun to lift stay-at-home orders and ease social distancing measures. A new interactive model from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania looks at different reopening scenarios and estimates how each one will affect the national economy and increase or decrease the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths between now and June 30.

Users can also explore state-specific estimates. The gist: The more states reopen and individuals reduce distancing practices, the greater the number of COVID-19 cases and the higher the death toll -- more than 950,000 total deaths nationwide under the model's full reopening/reduced distancing scenario -- but the softer the hit to gross domestic product and the fewer the job losses. The takeaway: Policymakers have difficult choices ahead of them as they weigh public health and the economy.

Reopening Texas Schools. Staggered schedules? Allow some students on campus while others stay online? Continue to teach remotely? Texas school districts are starting to draw up preliminary plans for the 2020-21 school year, The Texas Tribune has reported. It's hard when no one knows what the health risk will be in August, however. "If you ask me today, what’s the percentage chance we come back in August? I have no idea," Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, said. "Somewhere between 0 and 100%."

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 4, 2020

More than 1,600 inmates and employees at dozens of units in the Texas prison system have tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and at least 25 infected prisoners and employees have died. How widespread the coronavirus is in the state's prisons is largely unknown because testing of symptomatic inmates has been limited – about 1% of the Texas prison population. But of the inmates who have been tested, more than 70% have tested positive, The Texas Tribune reported today in an article looking at what the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is doing to protect inmates, employees and the public from COVID-19.

Texas COVID-19 Case Counts. Thursday through Sunday saw four consecutive days of more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases statewide. The new increases came as some businesses began to open at limited capacity under Gov. Greg Abbott's new executive order, prompting many Texans to ask whether it makes sense to ease restrictions when the number of new cases is rising. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram asked four epidemiologists to explain what the coronavirus data mean – for Tarrant County at least – what else people should be looking at to get a proper picture of the coronavirus is spreading.

Texas is currently reporting 32,332 cases of COVID-19 and 884 deaths -- an increase of 784 cases and 17 deaths from Sunday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 213 of Texas' 254 counties – up one county from the day before.

The percentage of tests that are positive for COVID-19 in Texas is currently 7.9%. This is a metric that Gov. Abbott has emphasized as the state ramps up testing and begins to reopen, The Texas Tribune reported last week.

Nationwide, at least 1,122,486 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 65,735 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty states are now reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC says.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


May 1, 2020

Retail stores, malls, restaurants and movie theaters have the state's green light to reopen today as long as they follow minimum health protocols outlined in a 65-page report by Gov. Greg Abbott's Strike Force to Open Texas. But allowing certain businesses to reopen today doesn’t mean all of them will.

Restaurants and movie theaters face particular challenges operating at 25% capacity, as required by the governor's first phase to reopen the state's economy. According to a poll by the Texas Restaurant Association released Thursday, 47% of restaurants said they weren't planning to reopen today, while 43% said they were. Emily Williams Knight, the association's president and CEO, called Friday a "soft opening" for many restaurants in the state.

With no big summer movies set to open until mid-July, theaters are hampered by a lack of something to show. "The movie theater industry is also a national one," the National Association of Theatre Owners told The Associated Press in a statement. "Until the majority of markets in the U.S. are open, and major markets in particular, new wide release movies are unlikely to be available."

Gov. Abbott has said reopening the Texas economy will be a slow process determined by "data and doctors." Many businesses say logistical and financial concerns will set the pace, too.

State Sales Tax Revenues. Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced today that Texas collected $2.58 billion in state sales tax during April, roughly 9% less than the same month last year. The Texas Tribune reported this was the steepest decline since January 2010.

New Unemployment Guidance. The Texas Tribune reported this week that workers who refused to return to work today out of fear of contracting COVID-19 would become ineligible for unemployment benefits. The Texas Workforce Commission now has issued new guidelines that would allow some employees who choose not to go back to work because of COVID-19 – those who live with someone who’s at high risk for COVID-19, for example, or whose child's school or day care has closed – to continue to receive unemployment benefits.

"This flexibility in the unemployment benefit process will help ensure that Texans with certain health and safety concerns will not be penalized for choosing not to return to work," Gov. Abbott said in a statement.

COVID-19 Cases in Texas. Texas is currently reporting 29,229 cases of COVID-19 and 816 deaths -- an increase of 1,142 cases and 34 deaths from its updated reports late Thursday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 210 of Texas' 254 counties – up one county from the day before.

Nationwide, at least 1,031,659 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 60,057 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nineteen states are now reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC says.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


April 30, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas General Land Office told Galveston County and city officials on Wednesday that the state was opening Texas beaches Friday, The Galveston County Daily News reported. "The GLO is rescinding its approval for local governments to close beaches due to COVID-19, effective April 30, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.," the General Land Office said in a letter sent to Galveston leaders and other beach managers. The city of Galveston later issued a press release saying that beaches would reopen Friday.

The Daily News reported that there had been some confusion whether the decision to reopen beaches would remain a local decision after Abbott on Monday issued his a new executive order allowing retail stores, malls, restaurants and movie theaters to reopen Friday with 25% occupancy. Neither the order nor the health protocols in a 65-page report by the governor's Strike Force to Open Texas specifically mentioned beaches.

Weekly Jobless Claims. Another 3.8 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the week ending April 25, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday. While the latest number was a decrease of 603,000 applications, or 15.7%, from the week before, it pushed the total number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits to 30.3 million since mid-March when state and local governments began shutting down businesses to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The number of Texans filing unemployment claims last week reached 254,199, down 26,562 claims, or 9.5%, from the previous week.

U.S. gross domestic product fell at a 4.8% annual rate in the first three months of the year, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated this week. With businesses shut down nationwide and 1 in 6 workers unemployed, the Congressional Budget Office projects the economy will shrink during the current quarter at a 40% annual rate.

An Effective COVID-19 Treatment? Researchers have reported that the antiviral drug remdesivir could help COVID-19 patients recover almost a third more quickly than the usual care given thus far has allowed, according to a federal clinical trial’s initial results. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said today on NBC's "Today" that he expects the Federal Drug Administration to approve the emergency use of remdesivir "really quickly."

Antibody Testing. Early antibody studies suggest that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has infected more people than the number of confirmed cases indicates. But some antibody tests are more accurate than others are and reliable antibody testing is critical to reopening the economy safely, researchers say. Public health experts with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston explain what you need to know about antibody testing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more information on antibody testing.

COVID-19 Cases in Texas. As of April 29, Texas reported 27,054 cases of COVID-19 and 732 deaths. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 207 of Texas' 254 counties.

Nationwide, at least 1031,659 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 60,057 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nineteen states are now reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC says.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties' Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 information to help members respond to COVID-19. Updated graphics by the National Association of Counties show how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


April 29, 2020

Several county judges and commissioners on Tuesday either announced their support for Gov. Greg Abbott's new executive order reopening the Texas economy in phases or they aligned their own COVID-19 restrictions with the health protocols detailed in a 65-page report by the governor's Strike Force to Open Texas.

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell, for example, held a news conference to announce his agreement with Abbott's plan allowing all retail stores, malls, restaurants and movie theaters to reopen with limited 25% occupancy starting Friday while keeping bars, gyms, hair and nail salons, bowling alleys, massage parlors and tattoo studios closed until at least mid-May. Gravell called the governor "really thoughtful in what is reopening." Fannin County commissioners adopted Abbott's order, while Wichita County rescinded its COVID-19 order to comply with Abbott’s report.

However, one of the more notable reactions to Abbott's order came from Montgomery County, north of Houston. During their regular meeting Tuesday, Montgomery County commissioners said the governor's order doesn't close any businesses or keep them closed, The Courier of Montgomery County reported. County Judge Mark Keough called Abbott’s plan "uncommonly vague" and "confusing."

Keough said Abbott's plan says individuals should avoid certain businesses, but it does not prohibit those businesses from reopening. It reads more as "advice" than an order, he said.

In an interview with the Austin American-Statesman, Keough described himself as an Abbott supporter. But based on his reading of the governor's order, he said, bars, gyms and hair salons can reopen Friday.

"I'm not going to get into a shooting match with the governor," Keogh said. "I can't win that deal. But I can tell you what I can do is say, 'Hey, it doesn't say what you're saying it says.'"

Keough addresses the issue in a video available on YouTube. Montgomery County's intention is to reopen all businesses on Friday, he says, unless Gov. Abbott clarifies his order's meaning.

Meatpacking Plants Ordered to Stay Open. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday declaring slaughterhouses critical infrastructure under the Defense Production Act. The decision compels meatpacking plants to remain open even as many experience outbreaks of COVID-19.

More than 150 coronavirus infections in Moore County, which has the highest reported coronavirus infection rate in Texas, have been linked to the JBS Beef meatpacking plant, The Texas Tribune recently reported. Located in the town of Cactus north of Amarillo, the 125-acre, Brazilian-owned plant employs about 3,000 workers, mostly immigrants, who prop up the rural community's life and economy.

"Moore County is a case study in how rural Texas is changing, and how it is not," The Texas Tribune's Alexa Ura writes.

Meanwhile, Angelina County officials say that a majority of the county's 46 confirmed COVID-19 cases have come from a Pilgrim's Pride chicken plant, according to the Lufkin Daily News.

COVID-19 Cases in Texas. Texas is currently reporting 27,054 cases of COVID-19 and 732 deaths -- an increase of 883 cases and 42 deaths from Tuesday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 207 of Texas' 254 counties – no change from the day before.

Nationwide, at least 981,246 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 55,258 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eighteen states are reporting more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the CDC says.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties maintains a list of counties that have enacted COVID-19 disaster declarations and orders, while TAC Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 guidance on government orders and protocols and information for county officials.

A legislative brief by the National Association of Counties outlines key COVID-19 issues and resources. And graphics by the National Association of Counties include visual looks at how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


April 28, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a new executive order Monday that allows all retail stores, malls, restaurants and movie theaters to reopen starting Friday with limited 25% occupancy as the state sets "a new course" in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that choose to reopen must follow "measured and cautious" health protocols detailed in a 65-page report by the governor's Strike Force to Open Texas.

Social distancing remains a guiding principle and key to the success of Abbott's phased approach. And Texans over 65 and other vulnerable citizens are encouraged to stay home. In the report's introduction, Abbott reminds Texans "to act responsibly as we re-engage in the economy, to continue following all health precautions and sanitizing guidelines, and to care for our vulnerable neighbors. Lives depend on our actions."

Public swimming pools, bars, gyms, barbershops and hair salons, massage parlors, bowling alleys, and tattoo and piercing studios will remain closed until at least May 15.

That's when the governor's latest order expires. If no new surge in the number of COVID-19 cases occurs over the next two weeks, then presumably Abbott will issue a new executive order allowing more businesses to reopen and expanding capacity to 50% for those that opened during phase one.

"Texans must continue safe distancing practices. If we do that, we will be able to expand into phase two, opening up our economy even more," Abbott said.

Abbott's order supersedes local mandates curtailing business activity. And while the governor encouraged Texans to wear face coverings, they're not required to do so. Abbott’s new order specifically prohibits any local jurisdiction from imposing "a civil or criminal penalty for failure to wear a face covering."

Abbott's Order and Rural Counties. Retailers, restaurants and movie theaters in counties with five or fewer COVID-19 cases can reopen at an occupancy limit up to 50%. But the county judge must certify and affirm in writing to the Texas Department of State Health Services that the county has met certain standards. The attestation form is available from the department.

If the county has more than three positive cases per 1,000 residents or surpasses other thresholds, the stricter 25% occupancy limit will be applied.

Testing and Contact Tracing. Gov. Abbott on Monday also announced plans to increase coronavirus testing and contact tracing in Texas. Health experts say rapid increases in testing and improved tracking of where COVID-19 is spreading are among the steps vital to safely reopening the economy, The Texas Tribune reported Monday.

Texas is currently reporting 26,171 cases of COVID-19 and 690 deaths — an increase of 874 cases and 27 deaths from Monday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 207 of Texas' 254 counties – up two counties from the day before.

Nationwide, at least 981,246 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 55,258 have died, according to the CDC.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties maintains a list of counties that have enacted COVID-19 disaster declarations and orders, while TAC Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 guidance on government orders and protocols and information for county officials.

A legislative brief by the National Association of Counties outlines key COVID-19 issues and resources. And graphics by the National Association of Counties include visual looks at how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


April 27, 2020

The moment Gov. Greg Abbott teased in a series of radio and television interviews last week arrived this afternoon when Abbott announced a phased plan to reopen the Texas economy. Citing the state's declining COVID-19 infection rate, the number of Texans who have recovered from COVID-19 and the state's ability to maintain hospital capacity, the governor said the stay-at-home order he issued last month "has done its job" and saved lives. He will let it expire Thursday as scheduled, he said.

"The lives saved are priceless," Abbott said, "but the price has been steep."

To revive the Texas economy, all retail stores, malls, restaurants and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen starting Friday as long as they limit occupancy to 25%, Abbott said. Museums and libraries can also reopen Friday as long as interactive areas remain closed. If there is no flare-up of new COVID-19 cases, a second phase, beginning May 18, will expand occupancy to 50%.

A different standard will apply for businesses in counties with five or fewer confirmed COVID-19 cases. They will be allowed to reopen as long as they limit occupancy to 50%, Abbott said.

Abbott said barbershops, hair salons, bars and gyms will remain closed until at least mid-May. He also said the new executive order he issued today on reopening the Texas economy supersedes local orders.

The governor said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, had given his plan, which also includes a phased increase in testing and contact tracing, the thumbs up. On NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Birx repeated the importance of following guidelines recommending that states reopen gradually. She also said, "Social distancing will be with us through the summer."

Studying the Virus. Lauren Ancel Meyers leads the University of Texas at Austin's COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, which brings together experts in various fields to understand how the coronavirus pandemic is spreading and how it can be contained. City and state officials have used her important forecasting research to determine their responses to the pandemic and she's in regular contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But as she says in a profile by the Austin American-Statesman, how and when the COVID-19 pandemic ends depends on an unpredictable factor for anyone doing epidemic modeling: human behavior.

New COVID-19 Symptoms. The number of COVID-19 symptoms listed by the CDC has increased. The CDC previously listed fever, cough and shortness of breath. It now lists six additional symptoms including chills, headaches and sore throat that may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms, the CDC says.

COVID-19 in Texas. Texas is currently reporting 25,297 cases of COVID-19 and 663 deaths — an increase of 666 cases and 15 deaths from Sunday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 205 of Texas' 254 counties – up one county from the day before.

Nearly 50 Texas counties haven't had any confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Texas Tribune explains why the true picture in these mostly rural counties may be obscured.

Nationwide, at least 957,875 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 53,922 have died, according to the CDC.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties maintains a list of counties that have enacted COVID-19 disaster declarations and orders, while TAC Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 guidance on government orders and protocols and information for county officials.

A legislative brief by the National Association of Counties outlines key COVID-19 issues and resources. And graphics by the National Association of Counties include visual looks at how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


April 24, 2020

Stores started offering curbside pickup today as part of an executive order issued last week by Gov. Greg Abbott to begin reopening the Texas economy. Guidance on how to make "retail to go" safe for employers, employees and customers is available from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

Abbott plans to issue an executive order Monday that will further relax the statewide restrictions he ordered March 31 and which expire April 30. In a series of radio and television interviews this week, the governor said his new order will lay out a plan that gradually and safely will allow "massive amounts of businesses" to reopen, including restaurants, movie theaters and hair salons.

More COVID-19 Relief. President Donald Trump today signed a $484 billion coronavirus relief package that provides $320 billion for the small-business Paycheck Protection Program, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing. The U.S. House passed the measure 388-5 on Thursday, two days after the Senate approved the bill on a voice vote.

Congress has now authorized almost $3 trillion in COVID-19 aid, but the debate over additional federal assistance to address the economic effects of COVID-19 on state and local governments has already begun. States, counties and cities are reporting or anticipating huge shortfalls in their budgets as COVID-19 reduces their tax revenues and increases their spending requirements.

The National Association of Counties has called on Congress to pass "direct and flexible funding" to help the nation's counties respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Congressional consideration of another relief bill could be weeks away, however. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants to slow the pace on additional COVID-19 funding.

COVID-19 in Texas. Texas is currently reporting 22,806 cases of COVID-19 and 593 deaths -- an increase of 862 cases and 32 deaths from Thursday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 204 of Texas' 254 counties – up two counties from the day before.

Nationwide, at least 865,585 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 48,816 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties maintains a list of counties that have enacted COVID-19 disaster declarations and orders, while TAC Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 guidance on government orders and protocols and information for county officials.

A legislative brief by the National Association of Counties outlines key COVID-19 issues and resources. And graphics by the National Association of Counties include visual looks at how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


April 23, 2020

Millions of Americans lost their jobs for the fifth straight week, the U.S. Labor Department reported today. Another 4.4 million people applied for unemployment benefits for the week ending April 18, down 810,000 from the previous week but bringing the five-week total to about 26 million people. About one in six workers have lost their jobs since mid-March when state and local officials began ordering businesses to close or implement measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

In Texas, 280,406 people applied for unemployment benefits last week, according to the U.S. Labor Department, an increase of 6,149 from the week before. About 1.3 million Texans have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March. The Texas Tribune looks at how COVID-19 is affecting the state's economy.

Charting a New Normal. As anticipation builds for Gov. Greg Abbott's planned announcement on reopening Texas businesses and as other states, including Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma, begin to lift restrictions, a big question is how to revive state and local economies without creating new surges in infections. Public health and infectious disease experts at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston offer some advice: Keep certain physical distancing measures in place and only gradually, cautiously return to old routines.

"We are not going to flip a switch and everything goes back the way things were," Catherine Troisi, an associate professor of epidemiology at UT Health, said. "We will need to keep a close eye on the number of cases, and should we see that case number shoot back up, we will have to ramp back down."

Texas businesses can begin offering "retail-to-go" on Friday as part of Gov. Abbott’s initial order reopening the state's economy, issued April 17. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services has provided guidance on how customers and businesses can stay safe.

Federal Assistance Training. Gov. Abbott announced today that the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will provide free online training sessions to help local officials navigate the federal COVID-19 funding process. Abbott, A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd also held a series of calls with mayors and county judges to discuss federal funding. The first online training session, "Federal Relief: An overview for local governments," is available now.

Help for Texans at Higher Risk. Gov. Abbott also announced today that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will receive nearly $54 million in federal money provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to support older Texans and people with disabilities. "Older Texans and Texans with disabilities face a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and they need continued support during these trying times," Abbott said in a statement.

COVID-19 in Texas. Texas is currently reporting 21,944 cases of COVID-19, with 561 deaths — an increase of 875 cases and 18 deaths from Wednesday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 202 of Texas' 254 counties – up two from the day before.

Nationwide, at least 802,583 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 44,575 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties maintains a list of counties that have enacted COVID-19 disaster declarations and orders, while TAC Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 guidance on government orders and protocols and information for county officials.

A legislative brief by the National Association of Counties outlines key COVID-19 issues and resources. And graphics by the National Association of Counties include visual looks at how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state’s justice courts.


April 22, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott continues to preview the next "strategic" steps toward reopening the state’s economy that he plans to announce Monday. In an interview today with Chad Hasty of Lubbock’s KFYO radio, Abbott said, "We're going to be making an announcement opening so many different types of businesses, where you're going to be able to go to a hair salon, you're going to be able to go to any type of retail establishment you want to go to, different things like that, with a structure in place that will ensure that we slow the spread of the coronavirus. So it won't be fully opened, but it will be opened in strategic ways, in ways that are approved by doctors to make sure we can contain the coronavirus."

Abbott also built anticipation for next week's planned announcement at a news conference Tuesday in Austin during which he promoted 500,000 job openings on WorkInTexas.com and discussed additional employment resources. The governor loosened some coronavirus-related restrictions last week, allowing "retail-to-go," reopening state parks and permitting some non-essential surgeries and procedures.

Abbott issued an executive order on March 31 that directs Texans to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are in the same household unless taking part in an essential service or activity. The order is in effect through April 30.

Coronavirus Aid Package. The U.S. Senate approved a $483 billion COVID-19 relief package that would replenish a payroll loan program for small businesses that ran out of money last week. The bill also provides money for hospitals and coronavirus testing. The U.S. House plans to vote on the measure on Thursday.

The latest package doesn't contain additional money for state and local governments, which are experiencing deep revenue losses and steep expenses because of COVID-19. Some congressional leaders and the White House have said they're ready to begin negotiations on a relief package for state and local governments, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has raised doubts that such a measure will happen or will happen quickly.

"We all have governors regardless of party who would love to have free money," McConnell said today on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. "And that's why I said yesterday we're going to push the pause button here, because I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated."

County-Level COVID-19 Map. Facebook has created an interactive map, based on survey data collected by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, that shows the percentages of people in each U.S. county who are reporting symptoms associated with COVID-19. Self-reported symptoms correlate well with confirmed cases of COVID-19, Carnegie Mellon researchers say, and could give public health officials real-time, county-level information that could help them allocate resources or decide when to relax social distancing restrictions.

NIH Treatment Guidelines. The National Institutes of Health has released treatment guidelines for COVID-19, recommending various interventions to help care for critically ill patients. Several antivirals and other therapies are being studied, the guidelines say, but currently, "no drug has been proven to be safe and effective for treating COVID-19."

COVID-19 in Texas. Texas is currently reporting 21,069 cases of COVID-19, with 543 deaths — an increase of 873 cases and 26 deaths from Tuesday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 200 of Texas’ 254 counties – an increase of two from the day before.

Nationwide, at least 802,583 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 44,575 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties maintains a list of counties that have enacted COVID-19 disaster declarations and orders, while TAC Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 guidance on government orders and protocols and information for county officials.

A legislative brief by the National Association of Counties outlines key COVID-19 issues and resources. And graphics by the National Association of Counties include visual looks at how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


April 21, 2020

Congressional leaders and the White House apparently have reached a deal on a nearly $500 billion aid package for small businesses that also includes additional help for hospitals and coronavirus testing, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. The U.S. Senate could take up the measure this afternoon, though some details reportedly were still being worked out. A U.S. House vote could come Thursday.

The emergency relief package includes more than $300 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, a payroll loan program for small businesses that ran out of money last week. Recipients could see their loans forgiven if they retain workers or rehire those who have been laid off. The measure also includes $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for COVID-19 testing.

Additional aid for state and local governments is expected to be part of the federal government's next coronavirus relief bill.

Virus Testing in Texas. Testing for COVID-19 is considered a key step toward safely reopening state economies. Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Monday that the Texas National Guard would deploy 25 mobile testing teams across the state involving more than 1,200 personnel. Testing locations will be based on assessments made by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Texas is lagging behind other states in per capita testing, according to a county-by-county analysis by the Austin American-Statesman. Only about 5 out of 1,000 people have been tested in Texas, the analysis found, whereas in neighboring Louisiana, for example, nearly 30 out of 1,000 people have been tested.

Texas is currently reporting 20,196 cases of COVID-19 out of 205,399 total tests administered – a 9.8% positive test rate – with 517 deaths. The latest figures represent an increase of 738 cases and 22 deaths from Monday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 198 of Texas' 254 counties – no change from the day before.

Nationwide, at least 746,625 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 39,083 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resources and Guidance. The Texas Association of Counties maintains a list of counties that have enacted COVID-19 disaster declarations and orders, while TAC Legal Services offers updated COVID-19 guidance on government orders and protocols and information for county officials.

A legislative brief by the National Association of Counties outlines key COVID-19 issues and resources. And graphics by the National Association of Counties include visual looks at how the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases have spread across U.S. counties, the top 10 U.S. counties by confirmed COVID-19 cases and the one-week case increase in counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

The Texas Justice Court Training Center at Texas State University updates coronavirus-related developments and lists best practices and other resources for the state's justice courts.


April 20, 2020

The Trump administration and Congress were negotiating an agreement on providing $300 billion to help small businesses meet their payrolls and $50 billion for a small business disaster fund, The Associated Press reported Monday. The aid package also would include $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for COVID-19 testing, AP reported.

A proposed $150 billion for state and local governments apparently will not be part of the package currently being negotiated. Counties could experience as much as $144 billion in lost tax revenue and increased spending through the 2021 fiscal year because of COVID-19, according to an issue brief by the National Association of Counties.

Reopening Texas. Most state parks reopened Monday after Gov. Greg Abbott relaxed some coronavirus-related restrictions on Friday. Park visitors are required to wear face coverings and follow physical distancing rules.

Reopening state parks is part of what Abbott has said will be a "slow process" to reopen the Texas economy. Abbott last week also allowed medical facilities to perform non-essential surgeries and procedures, starting Tuesday, as long as they keep at least 25% of their capacity available for the treatment of COVID-19 patients and maintain adequate supplies of personal protective equipment. On Friday, businesses can begin offering "retail-to-go," selling items for delivery or curbside pickup.

And the governor appointed a "strike force" made up of public officials, business leaders and medical experts to advise him on reopening the Texas economy. Abbott issued an executive order on March 31 that directs Texans to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are in the same household unless taking part in an essential service or activity. He said on Friday that he will announce additional steps toward loosening statewide restrictions on April 27.

COVID-19 in Texas. Texas is currently reporting 19,458 cases of COVID-19, with 495 deaths – an increase of 525 cases and 18 deaths from Sunday. At least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in 198 of Texas' 254 c