Wednesday's biggest developments
- Texas reports 27,054 cases and 732 deaths
- H-E-B removes cap on toilet paper purchases
- Texas Workforce Commission could change unemployment qualifications
Texas will reopen state beaches on Friday
[7:21 p.m.] Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas General Land Office will override any potential local mandates and reopen the state’s beaches in a limited way Friday, according to a press release from the city of Galveston.
City officials stated that per state guidance, outdoor activities are permissible “as long as necessary precautions are maintained to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 and to minimize contact with people who are not in the same household.”
The move comes after several days of jurisdictional confusion between the state and local municipalities, according to The Galveston County Daily News. — Abby Livingston and Megan Menchaca
Texas oil regulators to vote on whether to cut oil production
[2:06 p.m.] Texas oil regulators will decide at a public meeting Tuesday whether to cut oil production, as plummeting global demand has impacted the oil and gas sector in Texas.
The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state’s huge oil and gas industry, released a proposed order Wednesday for a 20% cut in oil production and a $1,000 fine per barrel for large producers that don’t comply.
The three-member state commission — Chairman Wayne Christian and Commissioners Christi Craddick and Ryan Sitton — has already heard more than 10 hours of testimony about production cuts, and the commissioners are expected to vote on the issue May 5. Christian is against cutting oil production, he wrote in an Op-Ed published in the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday. It is unclear how Craddick and Sitton will vote. — Mitchell Ferman
Texas reports 27,054 cases and 732 deaths
[12:45 p.m.] Texas reported 883 more cases of the new coronavirus Wednesday, an increase of about 3% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 27,054. No new counties reported their first cases Wednesday; over 80% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.
Harris County has reported the most cases, 5,986, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 3,240 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.
The state has reported 42 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 732 — an increase of about 6% from Tuesday. Harris County reported five additional deaths, bringing its total to 103 deaths, more than any other county.
As of Wednesday, 1,702 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s an increase of 20 patients from Tuesday. At least 314,790 tests have been conducted. — Chris Essig
Nine test positive at Pilgrim's Pride chicken producer in Angelina County
[10:23 a.m.] Angelina County confirmed 10 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing its total to 46, the Lufkin Daily News reported Wednesday.
According to County Judge Don Lymbery, nine of those cases were from “one bad actor” — Pilgrim’s Pride, one of the largest chicken producers in the country.
This comes after the Texas Department of State Health Services began investigating similar outbreaks at meat processing plants JBS Beef and Tyson Foods in Moore and Shelby counties, respectively. More than a dozen meat and poultry processing plants nationwide, often staffed by immigrant workers, have had to temporarily shut down to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. — Naomi Andu
H-E-B removes purchase limits on toilet paper and food items
[10:20 a.m.] H-E-B removed purchase limits Tuesday on toilet paper, paper towels and all food items. However, the Texas-based grocery store is still capping purchases of some non-food items — like hand sanitizer, hand soap, disinfectants and masks— and prohibiting returns of others “out of an abundance of care and concern for all H-E-B customers.”
The store first put the purchase limits in place March 13 in an effort to protect its supply chain and ensure all customers had access to in-demand products. — Naomi Andu
Texas developing "clarity" on unemployment aid qualifications as businesses reopen
[5 a.m.] A Texas Workforce Commission spokesman said late Tuesday that the agency is developing parameters for what might allow Texans to continue qualifying for unemployment insurance if they refuse to return to work at businesses reopened by Gov. Greg Abbott’s loosened executive order because they fear contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
That statement came a day after The Texas Tribune reported that TWC officials said workers must be “willing and able to work all the days and hours” required of the job they are seeking and those who choose not to return to work at businesses reopened during the pandemic will become ineligible for unemployment aid. In the Tribune story Monday, agency spokesman Cisco Gamez said workers with concerns about their employer’s adherence to health guidelines should contact the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
But on Tuesday night, Gamez said that "on a case by case basis," the agency "may need to review" situations in which workers aren’t comfortable returning to reopened businesses while the coronavirus still spreads through the community. He also said the agency is “working to develop clarity” on what “might constitute good cause” for not returning to a job. Without good cause, people aren't eligible for benefits, he said.
Gamez said he will provide more information as he gets it. — Clare Proctor