Friday’s biggest developments
- Abbott deploys National Guard to help with testing sites, healthcare
- Six Lubbock nursing home residents test positive for COVID-19
- Latest report for Texas: 1,731 COVID-19 cases, 23 deaths
- U.S. House approves coronavirus spending bill
Texas eases child care regulations to help low-income parents during pandemic
[6:41 p.m.] As part of an ongoing response to the economic hit Texans face due to the new coronavirus, Gov. Greg Abbott agreed to ease regulations for child care centers serving low-income children through state subsidies.
Now, child care providers will receive supplemental payments from local workforce boards to cover parents who are deciding to keep their children at home during the pandemic. And parents can still be eligible for subsidized child care even if they are no longer able to fulfill work and education requirements.
The new rules are intended to help ensure children of essential workers, such as nurses and grocery clerks, have safe places to stay while their parents are at work. The Texas Workforce Commission, which oversees the childcare subsidy programs, is seeking federal waivers to further help essential workers with those needs. — Aliyya Swaby
Abbott deploys National Guard to help with healthcare
[5:20 p.m.] Gov. Greg Abbott has deployed three National Guard Joint Task Force Brigades to operate ten “general support units” across Texas, according to a Friday news release from the governor’s office. The Guard’s first focus will be on “assisting drive-through testing sites and bolstering the state’s healthcare infrastructure,” according to the statement.
Abbott noted that this deployment will not take away from the National Guard’s other commitments, like overseas deployments and manning the border.
The National Guard had previously been activated, but not deployed, by Abbott on March 17.
“Texans can be grateful that these troops are now standing their post alongside healthcare professionals and first responders on the front lines of this crisis,” Abbott said. — Naomi Andu
Six Lubbock nursing home residents test positive for COVID-19
[3:54 p.m.] Six residents have tested positive for the new coronavirus in Lubbock’s Whisperwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, per a city news release Friday. Three additional tests for suspected cases are still pending.
This comes after two nursing home employees tested positive on Wednesday, spurring a contact investigation that led to the identification of the six new cases.
Employees at the nursing home had been tested in accordance with nursing home screening guidelines put forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Additional personal protective equipment was delivered to the facility on Thursday, and city officials are “working to secure additional resources and staffing to support the facility and reduce further transmission,” according to the statement. — Naomi Andu
U.S. House passes coronavirus spending bill
[2:28 p.m.] Some U.S. House members from Texas rushed to the U.S. Capitol on Friday and urgently passed into law a massive spending bill that is aimed toward mitigating the health and economic impact of the new coronavirus.
It was, for modern times, an unheard of member scramble from every corner of the country.
At issue was the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, a bill is estimated to cost taxpayers over $2 trillion with the goals of reinforcing the medical response to the pandemic, keeping businesses afloat long enough to avoid more layoffs and bolstering liquidity in the market. The bill will direct payments to individual Americans and will deliver loans to distressed businesses affected by the virus outbreak: small businesses, large corporations and airlines.
See how the Texans weighed in here. — Abby Livingston
Texas reports 1,731 cases and 23 deaths
[2:00 p.m.] On Friday, Texas reported 1,731 cases of the new coronavirus — a 24% increase over Thursday, when the state reported 1,396 cases.
The state is also reporting five additional deaths, bringing the total statewide deaths to 23.
Dallas County reported the most cases, at 367, followed by Harris, which reported 203 cases. As of Friday, 105 of the state’s 254 counties had reported at least one coronavirus case. Dallas County is also reporting seven deaths, more than any other county. On Friday, Bexar County reported two additional deaths, bringing the total to five and making it the county with the second highest total deaths.
Texas also reported a total of 23,666 coronavirus tests have been run. This represents an increase of about 10% over what the state reported on Thursday. — Carla Astudillo
More stay-at-home orders coming in Southeast Texas
[11:30 a.m.] The city of Beaumont issued a stay-at-home order Friday, and KFDM-TV reports similar orders are expected for six surrounding counties in Southeast Texas: Jefferson, Hardin, Orange, Jasper, Newton and Tyler.
The orders come after physicians and other health care professionals urged county officials on the region's Emergency Management Team to take more drastic measures to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
“Many people are unable to get tested due to lack of resources, and there is likely a vast underestimation of how widespread this is in our region,” reads the letter written by doctors and nurse practitioners. “We should do everything possible to ensure the safety of all and to avoid overwhelming our healthcare facilities. … We urge you to follow the examples put forth by our neighboring communities and issue a strong and enforceable stay-at-home order immediately.” — Naomi Andu
COVID-19 might delay high-speed rail in Texas
[10:58 a.m.] Texas Central, the company that is aiming to build a high-speed train connecting Dallas and Houston with 90-minute trips, said that the project’s timeline could be derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. The company is currently waiting for environmental reviews and permits from federal regulators, which were expected — pre-coronavirus — by the end of July. After that, Texas Central was looking to start “construction phase,” but many of its partners are based in countries that are currently affected by COVID-19, including Central Japan Railway, the Spanish company Renfe and the Italian engineering firm Salini Impregilo.
“Once we receive our permit approval, our ability to begin construction will be contingent upon financial entities in the United States, Europe and Japan, all of which are dealing with urgent priorities generated by COVID-19, completing their due diligence process,” said Carlos Aguilar, CEO of Texas Central, in a news release. — Juan Pablo Garnham
Coronavirus relief bill heads to U.S. House on Friday
[5:00 a.m.] The U.S. House is expected to vote on the a novel coronavirus relief bill Friday morning. Known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the bill is estimated to cost taxpayers over $2 trillion and has the primary goals of supporting the medical response to the pandemic, keeping businesses afloat long enough to avoid more layoffs and bolstering liquidity in the market.
How the vote will play out procedurally was uncertain late Thursday. Most House members are in their districts, and members aim to avoid returning to the chamber in the near term out of fear of contracting the virus while in transit. — Abby Livingston
With more than 300 cases, Dallas County strengthens medical response
[5:00 a.m.] Dallas County, Texas' county hardest hit by the new coronavirus, is strengthening its medical response with a mobile hospital and by calling in health care workers from the National Guard. The county has more than 300 positive cases and plans to eventually open the 250-bed hospital and is calling in doctors and nurses from the National Guard who will assist with epidemiological detective work known as “contact tracing” to identify people who have been in contact with anyone who tests positive for the novel coronavirus. — Mitchell Ferman
Abbott carefully navigates statewide coronavirus response
[5 a.m.] The same week that President Donald Trump suggested the U.S. economy, reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, should be “opened up and raring to go by Easter,” Gov. Greg Abbott has struck a different tone.
“On one hand, I think there is an urgent desire by a lot of Americans to get back to work, to get back to normal,” Abbott said. “That said, everyone understands that we will all be working off of the best advice of medical professionals about what is the safest way to proceed.”
Those divergent messages highlighted the middle-ground approach that Abbott has taken so far as the state’s chief executive responds to a global health crisis. It has helped keep the peace across the levels of government but has also raised questions about whether he’s being aggressive enough. — Alex Samuels and Patrick Svitek