AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Greg Abbott expressed optimism Friday that Texas was seeing signs of slowing the coronavirus outbreak but warned that the number of deaths was not yet showing signs of leveling off.
Texas now has more than 11,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and more than 220 related deaths. Abbott said the number of hospitalizations statewide has remained flat for several days even as Texas continues to expand the number of tests.
“We’re beginning to slow the growth of the coronavirus,” Abbott said at a briefing at the Texas Capitol. “We’ve not yet reached the peak and begun on the decline yet.”
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Abbott also said he would issue an executive order next week laying out how Texas will eventually reopen for business, although he did not say when that would happen. He put Texas under what amounts to a stay-at-home order until April 30.
The case numbers updated hourly by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University showed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, approached 12,000 in Texas late Friday afternoon, up from just over 10,400 Thursday afternoon. reported by state health officials on Wednesday morning. Fatalities in Texas from COVID-19 reached 232 Friday afternoon, up from 205 deaths Thursday afternoon.
Harris County reported the most cases with 3,047 Friday, up from 2,341 Thursday, and the most deaths with 34 Friday, three more than Thursday. Dallas County was second with 1,537 cases Friday, up 95 cases from Thursday.
BOND RESTRICTIONS OVERTURNED
A state judge on Friday overturned Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order that withheld bond for anyone arrested on charges involving physical violence or who have past convictions for violent offenses.
Abbott issued the order March 29 as state officials worked to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in jails.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and others filed the lawsuit in state district court in Travis County on behalf of Harris County misdemeanor court judges, criminal defense organizations and the NAACP Texas. The lawsuit says the order unconstitutionally would remove discretion from judges about who can get bond.
The lawsuit says since social distancing is nearly impossible in jails, stakeholders have been working to reduce jail populations “in ways consistent with both state law and the safety of the community.” State District Judge Lora Livingston of Travis County concurred and issued a temporary order restraining enforcement of Abbott’s order. She also set an April 24 hearing on whether to grant a temporary injunction.
There was no immediate comment from the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
DEATHS MOUNT AT NURSING HOME
Two more residents at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in San Antonio have died after a coronavirus outbreak infected most of the people living there, officials said Friday.
That means 12 deaths, more than half of 22 reported coronavirus-related deaths in Bexar County, are linked to the nursing home.
One death was was a Caucasian male in his 80s, the other was a Hispanic female in her 80s. Both had underlying medical conditions, according to a statement from center officials.
As of Friday, 74 of the 84 center residents, along with 27 staff members, have tested positive for COVID-19. The most recent victims were two women, one in her 70s and the other in her 80s, city officials said in a statement.
The virus has swept through other Texas nursing homes, including one in Texas City, where a doctor is treating nearly 30 people with an anti-malaria drug that has been heavily promoted by President Donald Trump but is unproven to be effective against COVID-19.
Authorities in El Paso say a hospital warehouse manager is charged with the theft of 100 N95 masks that are in high demand among doctors and nurses nationwide.
El Paso Police said Friday that one of their officers saw the man putting boxes of the medical masks into the trunk of his car at the Del Sol Hospital warehouse last Saturday. Eduardo Salas, 57, was booked at the country jail. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.