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Coronavirus in Texas

Coronavirus in Texas 4/9: ACLU sues Dallas County to release inmates over 50

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

Sparse traffic on the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin during the coronavirus pandemic. April 2, 2020.

Thursday’s biggest developments

  • Texas reports 10,230 cases and 199 deaths
  • Dallas will rent RVs and hotel rooms to quarantine first responders
  • Texas Supreme Court delays collection of consumer debt until May 8
  • Numerous confirmed cases at nursing homes in Arlington and Missouri City

Data center outage affected Texas’ unemployment site

[6:11 p.m.] On Thursday afternoon, a data center outage affected the Texas Workforce Commission, the agency that is in charge of processing unemployment claims, according to the Houston Chronicle. The unemployment insurance system and the website of the Texas Workforce Commission were offline for around an hour, but no data was lost, according to a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Information Resources.

More Texans filed for unemployment in the last four weeks than all of 2019, using either the website or the commission’s phone line. The demand has overwhelmed both options, and the commission is looking for alternatives like third-party call center vendors and bringing in workers from other state agencies to help with the applications. — Juan Pablo Garnham

ACLU sues Dallas County to release inmates over 50 years old

[6:05 p.m.] The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and other civil rights attorneys are leading a federal lawsuit against Dallas County, asking for the immediate release of all county jail inmates who are over 50 or have medical conditions.

As of Tuesday, 23 Dallas County inmates had tested positive for the new coronavirus. The lawsuit, filed Thursday, argues that not enough is being done to prevent further spread of the illness and says the continued incarceration of more vulnerable inmates is unconstitutional.

In Harris County, officials have wrangled over the release of more jail inmates in a disease-prone environment — arguing over concerns of public safety if more people accused of crimes are freed and equal treatment for those who can and can’t afford to post bail for their release. On Wednesday, the ACLU of Texas filed a related suit against Gov. Greg Abbott for his order restricting the release of jail inmates without paying bail. — Jolie McCullough

El Paso-area ICE detainee tests positive for novel coronavirus

[6:01 p.m.] EL PASO — A detainee at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in the El Paso field office has tested positive for the new coronavirus, a legal aid group said Thursday.

This is the first case of a detainee in a Texas-based field office becoming infected, according to an ICE case tracker. The detainee is being held just outside El Paso at the Otero processing facility in Chaparral, New Mexico, where an employee also has the virus, the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center said.

“ICE has a responsibility to protect the wellbeing of people in the Borderland, of the migrants in their custody and of their staff, which they have ignored in the face of COVID-19,” said Linda Corchado, the director of legal services at the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. “They have failed to implement and follow CDC guidelines. We must hold them accountable for the human cost of their actions and inactions in the face of this crisis.”

According to ICE, 37 detainees have the virus, though the Otero case is not reflected in the most recent tally. Corchado told The Texas Tribune that the office of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, confirmed the cases. — Julián Aguilar

Texas reports 10,230 cases and 199 deaths

[1:40 p.m.] Texas reported 877 more cases of the new coronavirus Thursday, an increase of about 9% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 10,230. Three new counties reported their first cases Thursday; more than half of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.

Harris County has reported the most cases, 2,341, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 1,324 cases.

The state has reported 22 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 199 — an increase of about 12% from Wednesday. Harris County reported eight additional deaths, bringing its total to 31 deaths, more than any other county.

As of Thursday, 1,439 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s a decrease of 52 patients from Wednesday. At least 106,134 tests have been conducted. — Carla Astudillo

Texas Supreme Court delays collection of consumer debt until May 8

[12:37 p.m.] Creditors will have to delay collections of consumer debt until May 8, per a Thursday order from the Texas Supreme Court. Courts can issue writs of garnishments — which authorize withholding money from someone’s paycheck or bank account to settle unpaid debt — but debt collection can’t take effect until after May 7.

The order is effective immediately, and hearings can begin again April 30, though the chief justice could extend that date. While the order is in effect, those who are owed debt are not permitted to freeze accounts at financial institutions. Until April 30, they can request default judgment in the meantime. The Supreme Court order encourages involved parties to reach an agreement on the garnishment, and courts can aid in facilitating this agreement. — Clare Proctor

Dallas will rent RVs and hotel rooms to quarantine first responders

[5 a.m.] The Dallas City Council approved $4.3 million for protective equipment, recreational vehicles and hotel rooms, the latter to be used to quarantine first responders, The Dallas Morning News reported. Dallas police have said at least six officers have tested positive for the new coronavirus; so have nine firefighters.

Numerous confirmed cases at nursing homes in Arlington and Missouri City

[5 a.m] Five cases of coronavirus were confirmed in an Arlington retirement community after all 263 residents and staff were tested, The Dallas Morning News reported. And 28 cases have been confirmed in the Park Manor Quail Valley nursing home in Missouri City, according to the Houston Chronicle. That facility requested testing of all residents and staff after a resident tested positive March 30.

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