From wire reports
With Texas continuing to break records for new coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations this week, Gov. Greg Abbott reiterated Friday afternoon that things will continue to get worse. And if people keep flouting his new statewide mask mandate, he said, the next step could be another economic lockdown.
“Things will get worse, and let me explain why,” he told KLBK TV in Lubbock. “The deaths that we’re seeing announced today and yesterday — which are now over 100 — those are people who likely contracted COVID-19 in late May.
“The worst is yet to come as we work our way through that massive increase in people testing positive.”
Texans will also likely see an increase in cases next week, Abbott said, and people abiding by his face mask requirement might be the only thing standing between businesses remaining open and another shutdown.
“The public needs to understand this was a very tough decision for me to make,” Abbott told KLBK of his face mask mandate. “I made clear that I made this tough decision for one reason: It was our last best effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. If we do not slow the spread of COVID-19 … the next step would have to be a lockdown.”
Abbott has pushed that message repeatedly in television interviews this week. But he emphasized Friday that another shutdown was not imminent, and he pointed to steps he has taken so far to scale back reopening in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including the mask order and a requirement that bars, once again, close their doors. He has also tightened restaurant capacity limits.
On Friday, Texas surpassed 10,000 hospitalized patients for the first time, capping a week of grim markers that also saw the state exceed 10,000 new cases in a single day.
And it has been the deadliest week of the pandemic in Texas, with 95 new deaths reported Friday. The state had recorded 3,013 deaths as of Friday.
Also on Friday, the state reported 9,765 new cases, raising the state’s total past 240,000.
“Several months ago, I warned of a potential tsunami if we did not take this more seriously,” said Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, the top official in one of the largest counties on the Texas-Mexico border. Since Monday, at least 31 people there have died due to COVID-19 — more than in Houston or San Antonio.
“The tsunami is here,” he said.
The crush of patients at border hospitals is one alarming new sight in Texas. In rural Starr County, which has one hospital and no intensive care unit, County Judge Eloy Vera said Friday that doctors were down to two ventilators and that the local health director was calling around the country looking for places to send their most severe virus patients. “There aren’t any hospitals in Texas that would take them, so he was looking at maybe sending them to New York. It’s bad,” Vera said.
The escalating crisis led members of Texas’ congressional delegation to ask Health and Human Services Secretary Alez Azar for a field hospital in the Rio Grande Valley as soon as possible. Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas also signed the letter, writing there was “no indication that case counts will level out soon.”
“Our health care providers remain wholly overwhelmed,” the letter says.
A resurgence of long lines for virus tests in Texas has also been accompanied by delays in getting results. Veronica Seever, co-owner of Leaf Landscaping Supply in Austin, said she and her family received their COVID-19 test results Tuesday after a 14-day wait.
Seever went with her husband and 16-year-old son to get tested at an urgent care clinic east of Austin after two of their employees tested positive. She said all three of them had to miss eight days of work during their 14-day self-isolation period, with no results in sight.
“That was a big frustration for us,” Seever said. “We are trying to be socially responsible and make sure we are not out in public or at work spreading, but when it takes that long to get a test, people are missing work that don’t necessarily need to be missing work.”