AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas reported its deadliest day of the pandemic with nearly 100 new deaths on Wednesday as newly confirmed cases continued soaring and Austin began preparations to turn the downtown convention center into a field hospital.
The 98 reported deaths in Texas set a record one-day high, surpassing the record 60 deaths reported a day earlier. Texas is now reporting a total of 2,813 deaths.
The state also reported 9,979 new coronavirus cases Wednesday after hitting a record-high 10,028 new cases the day before. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott aggressively began one of America’s fastest reopenings in May but has begun reversing course in recent weeks, ordering bars closed and mandating face coverings.
Hospitalizations of people with coronavirus virus continued to climb Wednesday, with 9,610 patients in hospitals across the state.
On Wednesday officials in Houston canceled the Texas Republican Party’s in-person convention, saying the spread of the coronavirus made it impossible to hold the event as scheduled. The move by Houston officials came after Republican activists had resolved to press forward with the indoor three-day convention this month.
Houston has emerged as one of the nation’s hot zones in the pandemic.
In Austin, local officials say they’re preparing the Austin Convention Center as a field hospital for 1,500 coronavirus patients. If needed, it could open by July 20, said Sarah Eckhardt, who is working on Travis County’s COVID-19 response.
She told the Austin American-Statesman that if needed, the site would be used for hospitalized coronavirus patients in need of light care.
Also Wednesday, state health officials ordered a nursing home near Fort Worth evacuated of its 63 residents after about 25 of them tested positive for COVID-19, officials said. The residents of the Lake Worth Village nursing home were sent to other nursing homes in the region, said Kelli Weldon, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
“Within an hour of being notified about this facility’s status, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) had a surveyor team on-site to actively investigate this facility’s compliance with all relevant health and safety rules. Our team remains on-site and is working with local long-term care ombudsman staff to monitor the transfer of residents to other facilities that can fully meet their needs,” Weldon said in a statement.
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 and death. The vast majority of people recover.
Among the many uncertainties created by the virus for Texans is what will happen with high school sports — especially football. The University Interscholastic League, which governs extracurricular sports, said Wednesday that it will require visitors, staff, and students to wear face-covering much of the time at workouts.
The group’s guidelines state that schools may allow students who are actively exercising to remove their masks “as long as they maintain at least six feet of distance from other students and staff who are not wearing face coverings.”
As the virus surges in Texas cities, it has also continued to spread and claim lives within state prisons. Nearly 9,600 people being held in Texas prisons have tested positive for COVID-19, and 88 prisoners with the disease have died, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Among prison staff, more than 1,780 have been diagnosed with the disease and nine have died.
In Texas’ youth prisons, which largely avoided infection during the early months of the pandemic, 98 young people and 84 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. The agency has reported one staff member died, but no youth fatalities linked to the virus.