Much like Arizona, Texas has become a coronavirus hotspot.
Texas Department of Health and Human Services reported that COVID-19 cases in Texas have jumped to about 100,000, after seeing a record increase of 4,246 new cases on June 16. Additionally, June 17 was the seventh consecutive day that Texas reported a record number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with 2,947 people.
Experts offer a wide variety of explanations for why Texas has seen a surge in early June. Most assign responsibility to the state government, which has opened up the state faster than others in the country. Texas entered Phase 3 of its reopening at the beginning of June, with restaurants allowed to reopen at 75% capacity. Lax laws combined with “COVID fatigue” have led more people to gather in groups without social distancing or wearing a mask.
President Donald Trump partly attributes the spike in cases to a rise in hospitalizations in prisons, according to Forbes. Indeed, the Dallas Morning News confirmed that 1,500 of the 4,246 cases reported on June 16 were “state prisoners that had not been previously counted in statewide tallies.” Still, new highs in hospitalizations were recorded 11 times during a 12-span in June.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and health experts link the surge to Texans under 30, charging that younger Texans are not taking social distancing seriously, according to the Texas Tribune. They say young adults socialized too much during Memorial Day weekend and at bars, which Abbott reopened in May.
“There are certain counties where a majority of the people who are tested positive in that county are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bars,” Abbott said during a press conference.
Data confirms this trend. In Hays County, which is sandwiched between Austin and San Antonio, 476 of the 938 confirmed cases are people ages 20-29, according to the Texas Tribune. In Travis County, home to Austin, 20-somethings make up 24% of all cases in the area and 8.3% of the hospitalizations. In Harris County, where Houston is located, 17.5% of all people impacted in that area are people in their 20s.
Abbott warned bars that if they aren’t adhering to the state’s COVID-19 guidelines, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission would suspend their license for 30 or 60 days.
“There have been pictures that I have seen and others have seen about these bar-type settings where clearly the standards are not being followed,” Abbott said. “Enforcements from the TABC should bring these types of settings more and align to being safer standards.”
Despite the surge in positive COVID-19 tests, Abbott, like most other U.S. governors, said he plans to move forward with opening his state because Texas still has an “abundant” capacity at hospitals, according to the Texas Tribune.
“We are better prepared to deal with COVID-19 today than we were back in March or April,” Abbott said.
On June 25, Abbott said the state would “pause” its reopening as Texas continues to set records for new daily coronavirus cases.
“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” he said. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”
Those businesses that are already open can remain so, but Abbott said hospitals must postpone all elective surgeries in the state’s four biggest counties, where Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin are located.
Abbott also urged citizens to wear face masks and practice social distancing.
On June 26, Abbott issued an executive order to re-close all the bars in the state and to return restaurant capacity from 75% to 50%.
On July 2, Abbott mandated face masks for people inside public buildings or outside in public spaces for most of the counties in the state. “COVID-19 is not going away,” he said. “In fact, it’s getting worse. Now, more than ever, action by everyone is needed until treatments are available for COVID-19.”