Thursday’s biggest developments:
- State reports 16,455 cases and 393 deaths
- Texas lawmakers invited to join task force on reopening U.S. economy
- Texas Tech expands its financial aid program
Dallas County, San Antonio residents will have to wear cloth masks
[7 p.m.] Dallas County and the city of San Antonio issued new cloth mask requirements Thursday.
Dallas County Judge Judge Clay Jenkins said in a news release that people going to essential businesses and using public transportation will have to wear face masks starting Saturday. The announcement came as the county marked its 50th death from the new coronavirus and surpassed the 2,000 mark of people infected.
In San Antonio, Mayor Ron Nirenberg updated the city's stay-at-home order to resemble Austin's mask policy. It states that people over 10 years old or older must cover their nose and mouth with cloth when in public, like grocery stores, where it is difficult to stay at a 6-foot distance from other people. — Jolie McCullough
Website launches to help essential workers find child care
[3:55 p.m.] Multiple state agencies have partnered to launch a website to help essential workers find child care near them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project, which stems from the state’s Frontline Child Task Force, includes a map of licensed child care centers and homes, as well as their hours and how much space is available. The task force includes representatives from the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Education Association and Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it particularly difficult for parents who still have to work in essential jobs, but have young children and need child care,” Ed Serna, executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission, said in a statement. “Texas needs these essential workers on the job, but they need the peace of mind of having a safe, regulated facility to take care of their children.”
The workforce commission also allocated $200 million in funds to help cover child care costs for essential workers. — Clare Proctor
Texas reports 16,455 cases and 393 deaths
[12:45 p.m.] Texas reported 963 more cases of the new coronavirus Thursday, an increase of about 6% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 16,455. Seven new counties reported their first cases Thursday; three quarters of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.
Harris County has reported the most cases, 4,097, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 1,986 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.
The state has reported 29 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 393 — an increase of about 8% from Wednesday. Harris County reported six additional deaths, bringing its total to 58 deaths, more than any other county.
As of Thursday, 1,459 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s a decrease of 79 patients from Wednesday. At least 158,547 tests have been conducted. — Chris Essig
Texas lawmakers invited to join task force on reopening U.S. economy
[10:49 a.m.] The Trump administration is seeking a bipartisan group of lawmakers from around the nation — including three Texans — to join a task force on reopening the economy, Politico reports.
On the U.S. Senate side, both U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn were invited to join the committee. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who narrowly won his primary race last month, was also asked to join.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, was also picked for the task force, according to his office.
During a conference call with reporters late Thursday morning, Cornyn confirmed he was joining the task force and had just spoken with Trump about it on the phone.
"In a way, this kind of formalizes what we are already doing ... which is talking to our constituents and ... the experts and getting as well informed as we can because I think this is going to be the No. 1 issue for our time," Cornyn said.
Trump has been actively pushing for the nation’s economy to reopen during the coronavirus outbreak, warning that a ruinous economy and a total shutdown could be worse than the contagion itself. In Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has also been a vocal supporter for reopening the state’s economy.
Gov. Greg Abbott will lay out his plans Friday to begin reopening the Texas economy, he previously confirmed to KXAN’s Wes Rapaport. — Alex Samuels and Patrick Svitek
Texas Tech expands its financial aid program
[9:02 a.m.] Texas Tech University is expanding its financial aid program starting with the fall 2020 term.
The Red Raider Guarantee program will cover tuition and mandatory fees through federal, state and university funds. To qualify, students must be Texas residents enrolled full time, have a gross family income of $65,000 or less, and demonstrate financial need. Currently, students eligible for the program must have a gross family income of $40,000 or less.
There is no separate application for the Red Raider Guarantee, but to be considered, students have to apply and be accepted to the university, as well as have a complete financial aid file by Jan. 15, the state’s priority deadline.
Incoming freshmen who qualify for the financial aid program can be eligible for up to eight semesters of aid, and transfer students with associate degrees can receive up to four semesters of aid. Taking 12 credit hours or more in a semester determines full-time enrollment. — Clare Proctor
Texas A&M scholars warned years ago that U.S. was not prepared for the next pandemic
[5 a.m.] Three Texas A&M University pandemic scholars warned years ago that the United States was not ready for the next pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“It is not a matter of if, but when, the next disease will sweep through the world with deadly and costly consequences,” Christine Blackburn, Andrew Natsios and Gerald Parker wrote in an article in 2018 published on an academic website called The Conversation.
The article pointed to vulnerabilities in global supply chains — and warned of a possible shortage of N95 masks if an epidemic hit a certain spot in Asia.
“This interconnectedness of the global economy and the expansiveness of medical supply chains means that a disruption anywhere along the line could spell disaster worldwide,” the article said.
The authors recommended creating a White House position to focus on pandemics as threats to national security.
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