Third up for most severe conditions surrounding the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, more commonly known as COVID-19 or simply “the coronavirus,” is Texas. As of July 2, Texas is experiencing 175,344 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (a number that could surely have been reduced with correct use of PPE such as the n95 mask), and 2,520 deaths at the hands of the viral disease, putting it third from the top on the list of states by greatest number of coronavirus cases. As the second most populous state in the United States, it's appearance toward the top is perhaps not so surprising. However, the state’s recent surge in cases may propel it upwards from its third position.
The first case of COVID-19 in Texas was reported on March 4, 2020, nearly three months after the genesis of the virus in Wuhan City, China at a wet market, which soon became the epicenter of the viral pandemic’s outbreak in December of 2019. This first confirmation of a SARS-CoV-2 case was a man in his 70’s who had recently returned from travels abroad to Egypt. This was the first confirmed case that was not linked to patients who had been evacuated from Hubei Province, China and the Princess Cruise line’s ship Diamond Princess, the evacuees of which had been given refuge at Joint Base in San Antonio back in January, 2020. Despite the man being the first confirmation, sources report that the initial outbreak in Texas probably began much earlier than March, as the death rate had risen steeply in the preceding months. Since then, Austin Public Health has conducted research and found at least 68 cases that predate this initial confirmation, affirming suspicions and proving that the first confirmable cases probably date back to March 2.
On March 5, officials confirmed four additional positive tests, all of which were related to the initial case of the man who had returned from Egypt, and most likely been unknowingly infected abroad before returning home and spreading the virus. It was reported that the man, along with the other patients with confirmed cases, had traveled in a group. On March 6, three additional cases were confirmed, all of which had also been part of the same group that had traveled to Egypt together. The group had been passengers on the MS A’sara river cruise in Egypt, which ultimately yielded 45 confirmed cases of coronavirus, twelve of which were from the Houston, TX area.
Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston declared the city to be experiencing a public health emergency, prompting the cancellation of the Houston LIvestock Show and Rodeo on March 11. The same day, the first case of community spread was recorded, being traced back to a Montgomery County police officer who was unknowingly infected and had attended a barbecue cookoff event at a rodeo on the 28th of February. He had not recently traveled abroad or out of state, so the origin of his infection is as of yet unknown. Later, eighteen cases would be linked to the rodeo, with all those who had tested positive having been attendees.
The same day, on March 11, San Antonio placed a city-wide ban on mass gatherings of 500 or more participants
On March 13, Governor Greg Abbott declared a State of Disaster in Texas due to COVID-19. The very same day, University of Texas’s president announced that his wife had contracted the virus whilst the couple was in New York City, attending events with alumni and students.
March 15 marked the first death due to the coronavirus, a 90-year-old man from Matagorda County. The very same day, a second person died of the virus, a resident of a retirement community in Arlington. Their deaths were reported and confirmed to have been cause by the coronavirus on March 16 and 17, respectively. A third death was reported on March 18, having died the previous day due to COVID-19 symptoms.
On March 31, Governor Greg Abbott issued an order for all residents of the Lone Star State, asking that all non-essential workers remain at home unless engaging in essential services or activities. He refused to label the order as a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place, for fear of upsetting or scaring Texans. This made Texas one of 18 states to have not yet issued a stay at home order, though Governor Abbott admitted that the order he issued put Texas in the same position as states who had put such measures in place. The order also shut down schools until at least May 4.
By the first of April, 44 students from the University of Texas at Austin were confirmed to have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. All 44 had been part of the same group of 70 UT students who had traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for spring break. Some of the travelers had returned to the U.S. separately from the rest, having taken commercial flights home. Since they were known to have been infected at the time of their travel, health officials were hard pressed to track down other passengers on the various flights to contact trace the virus and minimize the spread from those who may have been unknowingly infected via contact with the students. It was reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on June 24 that in total, 64 people had been infected via contact with the traveling students, including 60 other flight passengers, one household contact, and three community contacts.
On April 3, 60 residents and 9 staff members of a San Antonio nursing home were confirmed to have tested positive for coronavirus. One of the infected persons ultimately died.
On April 17, Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-17, which served to establish the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, a committee of medical and political leaders who were meant to advise on the “safe and strategic restarting and revitalizing all aspects of the Lone Star State." The committee began by revising social distancing protocols to meet Abbott’s preceding executive order, GA-16, which was issued the same day and provided for the allowance of delivery and pick-up services, scheduled to be put into effect on April 24. Additionally, Governor Abbott also ordered that no schools would reopen for the remainder of the academic year, including all public, private, and high-education institutions.
On April 27, Moore County became the first county in the state for which 1 in every 100 persons, or a full 1% of residents, were infected with coronavirus. This also meant that Moore
County’s infection rate was 1.3%, making it 15 times higher than the average infection rate for the state of Texas as a whole. By this point, Texas had nearly 26,000 total confirmed cases.
This same day, April 27, Governor Abbott announced the beginning of a three-phase reopening plan, the first phase of which would allow for restaurants, retail businesses, museums, and other businesses to reopen, operating at 25% capacity, starting May 1. The phases of the plan were outlined in The Governor’s Report to Open Texas, the purpose of which was to provide a detailed plan for ending lockdown and providing up-to-date information on the new minimum safety and health protocols as per the recommendations issued by the Strike Force.
On April 30, the number of new infections in a 24-hour period exceeded 1000 for the first time since the peak of the infection on April 10.
By May, the infection rate had declined somewhat steadily throughout mid-April, but spiked at the end of the month. On May 1, the number of new infections in the last 24 hours rang in at 1,142, while the death toll hit a whopping 50, a new highest number for daily deaths. The registered number of active infections in the state of Texas now exceeded 14,000. Nevertheless, Phase 1 of reopening began.
By May 8, under the altered guidelines of Phase 1 reopening, the total number of COVID-related deaths in Texas now exceeded 1000. Active infections totaled greater than 16,000.
Not quite a week later, Potter County reached the same fate as the much smaller Moore County, becoming the first large county with an infection rate greater than 1%. Moore County’s infection rate now approached a massive 3% by May 13.
By May 15, the total number of active recorded cases hit 18,000, two thousand more than a mere week previous. The sizeable increase indicated an increase in infection growth and probability of infection.
On May 16, the number of new cases jumped by 1,801, setting a new record for most new cases recorded in a single day. Targeted testing revealed nearly 800 new cases linked to meat packing plants in the Amarillo area alone. Gov. Abbott had earlier dispatched a Surge Response Team (SRT) to begin testing in high-risk areas.
On May 28, a new daily record was broken, with 1,855 new confirmed cases being reported.
This record was broken again on May 31, recording 1,949 new cases. Moore County’s infection rate was officially above 3% of their population.
By June 5, new infections exceeded 10,000 cases per week, nearly double that of the end of April a little over a month earlier. In Panola County, 1/1000 of the population has died due to COVID-19 related conditions.
On June 6, the total number of new infections for the day was greater than the sum of all new infections reported in the same 24-hour period in Italy, Spain, France, and Germany together. New confirmed cases have increased at a rate of 0.8%-3.2% each day since mid-May.
On June 10, the total number of new daily confirmed cases exceeded 2,500 for the first time, continuing the upward trend seen since May 1. Active cases are estimated to be twice that at the end of April, exceeding 25,000 in total. Nearly 32,000 tests were performed each day of the preceding week.
On June 15, Harris county reported more than 500 new daily cases and an estimated number of total active cases in excess of 10,000. More than 2,000 COVID-related hospitalizations occurred in the preceding 7 day period. Governor Abbott and other officials maintain that the increase in cases is due to increased testing, not actual spread.
On June 16, 2,622 new daily cases are reported, setting yet another new record. An additional approximate 1,500 was added to this count, accounting for positive cases of SARS-CoV-2 in prisons and jails. Ezekiel Elliot tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The total number of cases exceeded 30,000, which marked a 50% increase in the number of cases in the last 2 weeks.
On June 17, the daily case count exceeded 3,000, an increase of 1,000 since the earlier week. 3,500 new cases were recorded the following day, June 18.. Weekly fatalities were 40% less than in the previous month, though.
On June 20, though, Texas surpassed California for the record number of daily cases, totaling 4,430 in 24 hours. Three days later, Texas recorded a staggering 5,500 new cases for the day, which marked it as the state with the most rapidly growing number of new cases in the United States. Since many infected persons are asymptomatic, or simply do not get tested if they do present symptoms, it is thought that the numbers reported by Texas were on the low side, and could not accurately represent the true number of infections in the state.
On June 25, Tarrant County issued an executive order requiring patrons to wear masks in all businesses throughout the county. Laredo called for state assistance, due to the fact that 2 of its hospitals’ ICUs were completely full. During the next three days, more than 17,450 new cases were reported daily.
On June 26, Governor Abbott was forced to issue another executive order that limited certain businesses and services so as to try to again slow the spread of the virus. The number of new cases each day now exceeded the total number of cases for the entire first half of April, when reopening plans were first announced.
On June 28, Governor Abbott acknowledged that the virus had taken a “swift and very dangerous turn” in the Lone Star State.
On July 2, he finally issued a mask mandate, requiring all Texans living in counties with more than 20 cases to wear a face covering while in public areas in which 6 feet of social distancing is not easily implemented. Exceptions were granted for children under 10, those with health conditions preventing them from wearing a mask, and those eating or drinking.
Though Texas tried to avoid it, it became ultimately clear that requiring the use of masks and implementation of social distancing is the only way to slow the virus’s spread and protect people. Many other states that have begun reopening have experienced similar events to those seen in Texas, in which the relaxation of health and safety guidelines leads to a steep rise in the spread of the disease, which can be miserable, painful, and even deadly.
If you are a resident of a state that is relaxing social distancing or mask guidelines, it is important to understand that said guidelines were put in place for a reason. Relaxation by popular demand does not make it safe or smart to return to normal. It is more important than ever to wear a mask and take all necessary safety precautions. N95 masks have been in popular demand and are scarce, but Clinical Supplies still has them in stock. Filtering out 95% of breathable germs is the best way to slow the spread and keep you and your loved ones safe.