Texas is hitting an all-time high for COVID-19 cases, and Gov. Greg Abbott told state residents to stay home unless they need to be out.
“Texas will report an all-time high in the number of cases of people testing positive of more than 5,000,” Abbott said in an interview on KBTX. “The hospitalization rate is at an all-time high. Coronavirus is spreading in Brazos County and across the entire state of Texas, which is exactly why action is being taken.”
Hours later, state health officials reported a record 5,489 new COVID-19 cases.
And the state broke its record for hospitalizations for the 12th day in a row as the Department of State Health Services reported 4,092 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals.
“We want to make sure everyone reinforces the best safe practices of wearing a mask, hand sanitation, maintaining safe distance, but importantly, because the spread is so rapid right now, there’s never a reason for you to have to leave your home unless you need to go out,” Abbott said. “The safest place for you is at your home.”
With mounting intensity, the governor has been sounding the alarm since a briefing Monday on a troubling spike in the pandemic’s spread and his concern that some Texans are not taking the threat seriously enough.
In an interview on KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi, Abbott said: “There still remain some people in Nueces County, as well as in the entire region, who seem to think the COVID-19 is not a challenge. People need to recognize this is a very swift-spreading virus for which there is no cure.”
Abbott was introduced on KRIS with a grim report that Nueces County have “already eclipsed Dallas and San Antonio in the number of new cases per day, per capita.”
Abbott said Monday that reversing the reopening of Texas would be a last resort. “Closing down Texas again will always be the last option,” he said.
But, he said Tuesday, “if we are unable to contain the spiraling spread of COVID-19, there will be more requirements put on businesses, including even considering have to ratchet back on the expansion of opening businesses in Texas.”
“That’s the last thing that either I or those businesses want to do,” he said. “So the best thing that we can all do is work on continuing to open up businesses but do so in ways that use safe practices that include wearing a mask.”
Texas Democrats, who have been warning this day would come, greeted the governor’s new tone with a “we told you so.”
“The record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases today and the fact that Texas has seen 12 straight days of record hospitalizations is because of Greg Abbott’s failure to lead,” said Texas Democratic Party Communications Director Abhi Rahman. “Texans are suffering. Our sacrifices might be for nothing. From Day One of this crisis, Abbott has undermined, hid and outright refused to listen to science or doctors. We’re seeing the catastrophic results of his failures.”
The percentage of tests that come back positive has also continued to increase. The state’s seven-day rolling average rate of positive cases reached nearly 10% on Monday, according to state health officials.
The rolling rate is calculated by taking a week’s worth of new COVID-19 cases and dividing it by the total tests performed in those seven days.
Public health experts say that number should ideally stay below 6%, and Abbott has said a positivity rate above 10% would be cause for alarm.
State health officials also reported 23 new coronavirus-related deaths Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 2,220.
More than 70,000 people have recovered from the virus, a number the health agency says is an estimate based on “several assumptions related to hospitalization rates and recovery times.” Recovery statistics are not a factor that indicate a state’s readiness to reopen, according to guidelines from the White House.
After health officials reported Tuesday’s COVID-19 totals, Abbott issued a proclamation to expand local authority on outdoor gatherings and directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to provide strict health and safety standards for child care centers.
Under Abbott’s updated order, local governments have the power to impose restrictions on gatherings with more than 100 people.
Previously, local officials could impose restrictions on outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas COVID-19 cases: State hits all-time high