Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott reported Tuesday that the state recorded over 5,000 new Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, setting a record for the largest single-day increase in cases.
Abbot did not initially offer an exact number of new cases or tests in total. However, the Texas Department of State Health Services later confirmed that the state had 5,489 new cases and 28 deaths.
The announcement comes just days after the state surpassed 4,000 new cases for the first time, over the past weekend.
Hospitals running out of space
Abbot revealed the daunting new record during an interview with television station KBTX where he also urged Texans to take the deadly pandemic seriously. In addition, Abbot also touched on the rising number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the state. (Related: Texas has had 1,000 new coronavirus cases every day since last week – but Gov. Abbott insists the state is ready to reopen.)
“The hospitalization rate is at an all-time high,” he said. “The coronavirus is serious. It’s spreading in Brazos County, across the entire state of Texas.”
Despite this, Abbot stressed that the state still had enough hospital beds to deal with the surge. However, anecdotes from the state’s largest medical centers seem to state otherwise.
In Houston, there have been so many cases that the Texas Children’s Hospital is now admitting adult patients. This is despite the fact that Houston is also home to what has been deemed the largest medical center in the world: the Texas Medical Center.
“Texas Children’s is committed to providing additional capacity through ICU and acute care beds across our hospital campuses to take on both pediatric and adult patients,” said the hospital in a statement to NPR.
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, stated in a tweet that Texas is facing “a steep terrifying rise” in COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions at Texas Medical Center.
“We now face a public health crisis,” Hotez added.
In Harris County, where Houston is located, officials warn that their intensive-care capacity will be exhausted in 11 days, based on their two-week average expansion rate. In addition, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s office has also stated that surge beds will be full in 38 days. Harris County is America’s third-most-populated county.
Next few weeks are critical
Following the surge in cases, Abbot urged Texans to observe physical and social distancing restrictions and follow safety rules on washing their hands and wearing facemasks.
“There remain a lot of people in the state of Texas who think that the spread of COVID-19 is not a challenge,” Abbott said during his interview. “The coronavirus is serious. It’s spreading.”
He also called the idea of shutting down the state’s economy once again as “the last option” to fight the pandemic; however, he said on Tuesday that agencies would clamp down on bars that have allowed overcrowding after restrictions were lifted.
“Texans have shown that we don’t have to choose between jobs and health — we can have both. We can protect lives while also restoring livelihoods,” he added.
Abbot has yet to take any new actions that some have called for, including making face masks mandatory. However, he has hinted at that new measures could be inbound. He referred to “additional announcements” that could come later today or sometime within the week.
Whether or not these measures will be enough to slow the spread of the virus could have long term ramifications for the state. On Tuesday, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, told lawmakers in Washington that the “next couple of weeks are going to be critical” for Texas and other states that are experiencing a surge of new coronavirus cases.
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