COVID-19 coverage graphic

Titus County continues to be the East Texas hotspot for new COVID-19 cases.

In a statement late Friday, County Judge Brian Lee said the county has recorded 24 more cases, bringing the total there to 272.

It was a week of consistent daily double-digit increases for Titus County, where virus cases have skyrocketed almost 150% in the past seven days.

Lee said this past week that he believes the Pilgrim’s chicken processing plant in Mount Pleasant is one factor in the large increase but not the only reason.

“We knew whatever (protective measures) they had in force out there at the time (at Pilgrim’s)” delayed a larger outbreak in Titus County, Lee said Thursday. “What caused it to erupt here recently, we’ll never know.

“Despite the great job Pilgrim’s has been doing in staving this off for quite a while, I think it’s finally catching up,” he said Thursday.

In Gregg County, Health Administrator A.J. Harris reported two more COVID-19 cases Saturday, raising the total to 197.

Harris said 1,964 total tests had been administered in the county as of Saturday, with 1,627 negative results and 140 results pending. He reported no new recoveries, keeping that total at 58. The county has had four deaths from the virus.

Meanwhile, an inmate at the Beto Unit in Anderson County has died with COVID-19 as a contributing cause, the second death at the prison linked to the virus.

Jeffrey Davis, 45, died May 11, and preliminary autopsy results indicate COVID-19 was a related cause in his death, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

He tested positive for the virus April 14 and was placed in medical isolation. He had several significant pre-existing medical conditions as well, according to the TDCJ. On May 2, he was transported from Palestine to a Tyler hospital.

Davis served three years of a 15-year sentence from Galveston County after being sentenced in 2017 for promoting, producing or directing a sexual performance of a child younger than 14, according to Galveston County judicial records.

Based on TDCJ reports, Davis is the second COVID-19 related death to be reported at the Beto Unit.

On April 30, TDCJ announced James Matthews, 68, was pronounced dead after being found unresponsive in his cell April 13.

Matthews had begun showing possible COVID-19 symptoms on April 9 when he was tested for the virus. He was serving a 40-year sentence out of Hopkins County on charges of indecency with a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Across the state

Texas reported 1,060 more cases of the coronavirus Saturday, an increase of about 2% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 54,509. Ward County reported its first case Saturday; more than 85% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.

Harris County has reported the most cases, 10,526, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 8,477 cases.

The state has reported 26 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 1,506 — an increase of about 2% from Friday. Harris County reported one additional death, bringing its total to 217 deaths, more than any other county.

As of Saturday, 1,688 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s an increase of 110 patients from Friday. At least 870,935 tests have been conducted.

And an outbreak at a recently opened immigrant detention center outside of Abilene has left more than one-quarter of its residents infected with COVID-19, the El Paso Times reported Saturday.

The outbreak at the Bluebonnet Detention Center in rural West Texas is the second-largest among the nation’s 49 immigration detention centers that have seen positive cases.

The center, originally meant to be a state prison, opened just before Christmas and is run by Management and Training Corp., or MTC, and houses 417 men and women. Of those, 111 have tested positive, along with six of the center’s 118 staff members, the newspaper reported.

Previous detention center outbreaks have led to strained relations between local leaders and private contractors in Texas. Earlier this month, Frio County commissioners demanded answers from officials with the GEO Group after the virus took hold at the South Texas ICE Processing Center in Pearsall, south of San Antonio.