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Coronavirus in Texas

Coronavirus in Texas 3/30: Cases emerge at second state-run home for disabled

Our staff is closely tracking developments on the new coronavirus in Texas. Check here for live updates.

An empty Sixth Street during morning rush hour in Downtown Austin. The city’s streets were mostly empty as a result of the c…

Coronavirus in Texas

As cases of the new strain of coronavirus grow worldwide, The Texas Tribune will continue to cover developments in Texas and nationally so our audience can stay as safe and informed as possible. Check back here for up-to-the-minute news, and visit our explainer on the coronavirus for essential information, including the number of cases in Texas and things everyone should know about the virus.

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Monday’s biggest developments

  • Texas has at least 2,877 cases and 38 deaths
  • Dallas County is preparing temporary hospital as cases top 500 there
  • U.S. Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher tests negative for novel coronavirus
  • Dallas County temporarily closes mobile testing sites due to possible thunderstorms
  • Two cases reported at the Richmond State Supported Living Center

Judge blocks Dallas' paid sick leave ordinance days before enforcement was to begin

[8:38 p.m.] A Texas judge issued an injunction this evening against the city of Dallas’ sick leave ordinance, finding that the local measure runs afoul of federal and state law.

Dallas’ ordinance has been in effect since August, though enforcement wasn’t slated to start until Wednesday. The injunction halting implementation, however, comes amid a deadly coronavirus outbreak that has sickened at least 2,877 in the state. Dallas County leads the state in the number of novel coronavirus cases.

Labor groups have argued that requiring paid sick leave would help contain the virus, allowing employees to stay at home when they get sick to avoid passing the illness on to others. But many of the state’s Republicans and conservative business groups have argued that sick leave ordinances — including similar ones on hold in San Antonio and Austin — are an overreach of a city’s regulatory power and that they violate the Texas Minimum Wage Act.

There is no federal law requiring employers to provide paid, job-protected sick leave; 59% of small-business employees have it, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ten states, 20 cities and three counties also mandate it.

Dallas’ ordinance requires one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours an employee works. Workers would be able to accrue up to 64 hours of paid sick leave each year. For employers with fewer than 15 workers, the amount would be capped at 48 hours, or six paid sick days.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, a federal court has just enjoined the Dallas Paid Sick Leave Ordinance. We are outraged by this decision and cannot imagine a time when paid sick leave is more important and more necessary,” the Workers Defense Project tweeted Monday evening. — Alex Samuels

Midland stabbing suspect wanted to kill Asian American family over coronavirus fears, reports say

[7:45 p.m.] An FBI document says a man facing attempted murder charges for stabbing members of a family at a Midland Sam’s Club did so because he thought the Asian Americans were Chinese and “infecting people with the coronavirus,” according to an ABC News report.

The 19-year-old suspect admitted he tried to kill the family, according to a Midland Reporter-Telegram article from earlier this month. That paper also reported that the man is being held on attempted murder and aggravated assault charges.

The ABC News report Monday cites an FBI document that warns of an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans as the coronavirus crisis magnifies in the United States. The pandemic started in China. As it has gripped America and Texas, the virus has unleashed widespread fear, anti-Chinese sentiments and outright xenophobia among American leaders.

Family members stabbed in Midland included a 2-year-old and 6-year-old, according to the document ABC News obtained. — Brandon Formby

Dallas County officials ready temporary hospital as cases there top 500

[7:06 p.m.] Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Monday that the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, which has been tapped as a temporary hospital to treat coronavirus patients, could be ready later this week. Jenkins told reporters on a conference call that when they “stand it up” will depend on when the county, which has reported over 500 cases of the virus, needs it — and said that decisions could be made soon about a specific timeline.

“I wanna be aggressive,” Jenkins said. “We’re gonna spend whatever money is necessary to make sure that people are safe at this time.”

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Sunday that the downtown Dallas site would mark the state’s first temporary hospital. He said that the convention center has room for about 250 beds, “with plenty of room to massively expand that number if needed.” — Cassandra Pollock

Harris County reportedly will extend stay-at-home order

[5:51 p.m.] Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is expected to extend a stay-at-home order for the county, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday evening. Hidalgo said she will make a decision Tuesday about how long to extend the order, which is set to expire Friday. It was first issued last week. — Cassandra Pollock

Texas congresswoman tests negative for new coronavirus

[5:45 p.m.] U.S. Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, D-Houston, has tested negative for the new coronavirus, she announced Monday evening.

The freshman lawmaker took the test Thursday and went into self-quarantine after her office said she had been “experiencing flu-like symptoms, including a temperature above 101 degrees.”

Fletcher said Monday that she instead tested positive for a “different respiratory infection” and is “on the mend.” She will continue to work remotely from her district.

Fletcher is at least the third member of the Texas delegation to get tested for the coronavirus. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, and Ron Wright, R-Arlington, have also tested negative. Gonzalez got tested earlier this month after he said he had come in “close contact” with an infected colleague, and Wright announced earlier Monday that he received a test after going to the hospital over the weekend with “a high fever and other flu-like symptoms.” — Patrick Svitek

Second state supported living center reports coronavirus cases

[5:40 p.m.] Two residents of the Richmond State Supported Living Center, which houses people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, have tested positive for the new coronavirus, local health officials said Monday.

Both residents are in their 60s and have been hospitalized. Fort Bend County public health workers are seeking to identify people who may have been exposed, officials said, noting that the residents are "some of the most vulnerable members of our community."

"Our staff is working alongside Richmond State Supported Living Center staff to implement additional infection prevention and control measures to protect the residents and staff,” Jacquelyn Minter, Fort Bend County Health and Human Services director, said in a statement.

Virtually all outside visits to state supported living centers and nursing homes have been prohibited since March 13.

The Richmond center is the second of Texas' 13 state-run homes for the disabled to report an outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Officials announced Friday that 39 people at the Denton State Supported Living Center had tested positive. — Edgar Walters

Judge orders Trump administration to try to release unaccompanied immigrant children in federal custody — including 1,100 in Texas

[3:30 p.m.] A federal district judge has given the Trump administration a week to prove it’s trying its best to release unaccompanied immigrant children from federal custody in an effort to minimize the spread of the new coronavirus.

There are about 1,100 unaccompanied children in licensed facilities in Texas. That’s more than a third of the 3,200 children in the country who are under government supervision.

The order was first reported by The New York Times and is part of a long-standing lawsuit over how long undocumented immigrant children can be detained after entering the country.

The Times reported that federal Judge Dolly Gee issued the order after news reports that four children in federal custody in New York tested positive for the coronavirus. But Gee conceded that a sudden release of all the children wasn’t the best situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The interests of all parties and the public are not well served at this time by rushing to release minors en masse in the midst of the current travel restrictions or to release them to potentially unfit custodians based on limited information,” she wrote. — Julián Aguilar

Three pastors petition state Supreme Court to declare Harris County stay-at-home order unconstitutional

[2:45 p.m.] A group of pastors and an outspoken conservative activist filed a petition with the Texas Supreme Court on Monday arguing that Harris County’s stay-at-home order, which closed churches and limited worship services to video or teleconference calls, violates the First Amendment, according to a Houston Chronicle report.

The petition was filed by Steven Hotze, a Republican activist known for his backing of anti-LGBT causes, and pastors Juan Bustamante, George Garcia and David Valdez, according to the Chronicle. The group also argues that Judge Lina Hidalgo’s order violates the Second Amendment by not listing gun shops among “essential” businesses.

The March 24 order requires residents to stay home and closed most businesses except those deemed essential, such as grocery stores and hospitals. On Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said gun stores are essential business and should be allowed to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court has given the county until Tuesday to respond to the emergency petition, according to Jared Woodfill, the attorney representing Hotze and the pastors. Woodfill said he also plans to file a similar petition targeting Montgomery County's stay-at-home order. — Sami Sparber

Texas reports 2,877 cases and 38 deaths

[1 p.m.] Texas reported 325 more cases of the new coronavirus Monday, bringing the total number of known cases to 2,877. Nearly half of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.

The state is also reporting four additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 38. Dallas County, Harris County, Brazos County and Oldham County each reported one additional death.

Harris County reported the most cases, 526, followed by Dallas County, which reported 488 cases. Dallas County is also reporting 10 deaths, more than any other county. Bexar County has reported five deaths, giving it the second-highest total.

As of Monday, 35,880 tests have been conducted in Texas. — Anna Novak

Threat of thunderstorms leads to temporary closure of testing sites

[10:14 a.m.] Drive-thru testing in Dallas County has been put on hold Monday due to the threat of thunderstorms in the area, the city of Dallas Office of Emergency Management said in a Facebook post. The sites at the American Airlines Center and Ellis Davis Field House will reopen at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The facilities are generally open to anyone in the community who has a cough, shortness of breath and a fever, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The Dallas area has about a 100% chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service, and a possibility of hail. — Matthew Watkins

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