In a month marked by a number of grim pandemic milestones, including records for daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Texas added to the list on Nov. 10 by becoming the first state to pass the 1 million mark in coronavirus cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Soon after, California passed the milestone. That made those two the worst coronavirus states, contributing significantly to the more than 13 million cases the U.S. has registered since the pandemic began.
NPR put it in perspective by asserting that if California and Texas were countries, they would would rank among the top 15 nations with the most overall coronavirus cases. By December, California (1.22 million) had passed Texas’ numbers (1.18 million). Meanwhile, Mexico currently sits at 11th among world nations with 1.13 million cases as of Dec. 2.
According to 2019 Census Bureau estimates, nearly 29 million people live in Texas. That means about 1 in 30 Texans have contracted the coronavirus.
El Paso County is currently the hardest-hit of Texas’ 254 counties, with 40% of people in the region’s hospitals being treated for coronavirus-related illnesses. An Associated Press report said more than 1,000 coronavirus patients are hospitalized there, and local officials have shut down hair and nail salons, gyms, and tattoo parlors. That goes beyond what Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is calling for to prevent further spread of the virus.
In a particularly telling metric for El Paso—which borders Mexico and is situated near the border with New Mexico—county officials plan to add four mobile morgue trailers to its current six, in anticipation of increased deaths.
Dallas is also reporting a spike in cases, according to the AP, recording 1,200 new cases for three consecutive days. That’s prompting the county’s top elected official to urge more residents to work from home.
“We are staring down the barrel of the largest spike we have seen to date in COVID cases,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in the article.
Lubbock, another population center in Texas (and home to Texas Tech University), has registered 3,400 new cases over the past week, prompting local officials to plan for hospital tents to prepare for possible overflow for the state’s medical facilities.
The NPR report notes that Texas’ prison population is contributing to its status as the worst coronavirus state. “More people have contracted the coronavirus in Texas prisons than any other prison system,” the article noted, adding that the “prison death curve in Texas has remained stubbornly high, with 231 coronavirus-related deaths occurring in prisons. Most of the people who died did not have a life sentence and were eligible for parole. About 80% who died weren’t convicted of a crime.”
According to WFAA, 23 correctional officers in Texas have died from COVID-19, but reportedly, the state’s Office of Risk Management has declined workers’ compensation claims to at least two surviving families.
Following California and Texas with the highest number of coronavirus cases are Florida, Illinois, and New York. By mid-November, though, North Dakota’s numbers had turned terrible, as it had recorded the worst mortality rate in the entire world, and the early pandemic success experienced by Rhode Island had dissipated away.