Friday's biggest developments:
- Texas reports 29,229 cases and 816 deaths
- Texas State University System says it will return to on-campus classes in the fall
- Report: Department of Education scrutinizing financial ties between University of Texas and Chinese lab
- Sales tax revenues expected to be released later today
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz wants chambers of commerce to get relief funding
[7:03 p.m.] U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday announced he will introduce a bill to ensure chambers of commerce have access to emergency relief funding provided under the Paycheck Protection Program.
“As small businesses work to re-open their doors, they’ll need access to the resources and tools offered by U.S. Chambers of Commerce,” Cruz said in a press release. “Nearly half of small businesses in Texas are a member of their local chamber. They’ll be looking to their chambers for guidance and support as we work to jumpstart the economy and get people back to work. We simply cannot allow these Chambers to go under at a time when they’re needed most.”
More than 1.5 million Texans have filed claims for unemployment in the six weeks since state and local stay-at-home mandates began shuttering businesses across Texas. Cruz said the Paycheck Protection Program has been extremely successful in Texas, with roughly 134,000 different loans totaling nearly $29 billion approved since the program was enacted. The first round of funding for the federal program ran out within weeks and many small Texas businesses missed out on the aid. — Sami Sparber
H-E-B reinstating some purchasing limits on meat products
[5:57 p.m.] Days after lifting restrictions on purchasing limits on grocery items like meat products, H-E-B announced a return of those restrictions for certain stores across Texas.
Stores in San Antonio, Central Texas, the Gulf Coast, the border region and some West Texas and North Texas towns will be subject to the reinstated purchase limits, which restrict purchases on ground beef and chicken, beef, pork and turkey. Customers can only buy two packages of ground beef each, and a combined total of two packages of any other listed meat product.
In Houston, as well as much of West and Central Texas, customers are limited to four packages of ground beef and chicken each, and two packages of brisket each. In a press release, H-E-B said supply chains are strong and the restrictions are “a proven way to ensure the best service and product availability for all customers." — Raga Justin
Texas reports 29,229 cases and 816 deaths
[1:15 p.m.] Texas reported 1,142 more cases of the new coronavirus Friday — the second-highest increase since the state began reporting coronavirus case counts. The highest daily total was 1,441 new cases reported April 10.
Brewster County reported its first case Friday; more than 80% of the state's 254 counties have reported at least one case.
Harris County has reported the most cases, 6,356, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 3,531 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.
The state has reported 34 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 816 — an increase of about 4% from Thursday. Harris County reported five additional deaths, bringing its total to 114 deaths, more than any other county.
As of Friday, 1,778 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That's an increase of 92 patients from Thursday. At least 351,775 tests have been conducted. — Mandi Cai
Texas State University System to resume in-person classes in the fall
[1 p.m.] The Texas State University System plans to resume face-to-face classes at its seven colleges and universities this fall, joining a growing crowd of public universities in the state that plan to bring students back to campus even as the state continues to battle the novel coronavirus on an uncertain timeline.
Brian McCall, chancellor of the Texas State University System, said Friday that its seven schools — Lamar University, Sam Houston State University, Sul Ross State University, Texas State University, Lamar Institute of Technology, Lamar State College Orange and Lamar State College Port Arthur — are working on campus-specific plans to ensure safety for students and staff. The University of Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech University systems have all made similar announcements in recent days.
"We have an obligation to accommodate students who want to continue their studies on campus this fall, but also a responsibility to keep our communities as safe as possible," McCall said. — Emma Platoff
ICE releases two detainees with HIV due to risk of coronavirus
[12:55 p.m.] Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials released two HIV-positive asylum seekers from detention in South Livingston on Thursday after lawyers and civil rights groups argued the men were at high risk of infection or death while incarcerated.
The asylum seekers are from Cuba and had been detained since October, according to a statement from Immigration Equality, an LGBTQ immigrant rights organization.
“We are happy they are now safe and free, but lament the fact they were not released months ago,” Bridget Crawford, the legal director for Immigration Equality said. “ICE has a moral obligation to free other asylum seekers like Iván and Ramón. They can and should release every single one of them today.”
ICE has been under pressure from immigrant rights groups across the country to release at least elderly and medically vulnerable immigrants from detention centers as the new coronavirus continues to spread.
Although most asylum seekers remain in detention, advocates have had some success in securing the release of some migrants. Last month a federal district judge ordered a detainee released from the Montgomery Processing Center in Conroe. The release of the 28-year-old woman came as a result of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. Two other detainees that were part of the lawsuit were released on bond earlier. — Julián Aguilar
Report: DOE scrutinizing financial ties between University of Texas and Chinese lab
The U.S. Department of Education is investigating the University of Texas System for possible financial ties to the Chinese laboratory scrutinized by U.S. officials as the possible origin of the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In an April 24 letter to UT System Chancellor James Milliken, the DOE requested records of UT’s dealings with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and its researcher Shi Zhengli. The letter points to a November 2018 Science magazine article that states UT’s Galveston National Laboratory worked with the Wuhan lab on “biosafety training, building operations and maintenance, and collaborative scientific investigations in biocontainment.”
The federal request is part of a national review that started in 2019 into whether universities are disclosing foreign money contributions as required by the Education Department, WSJ reports. Universities must report all foreign contracts and gifts that are separately or cumulatively worth $250,000 or more in a calendar year. The department recently started to rigorously enforce the decades-old rule, WSJ reports.
The UT System previously reported contracts with Chinese universities and Huawei worth almost $13 million, the paper reported. — Stacy Fernández
Comptroller expected to release latest sales tax revenue figures — and says their drop is "unprecedented"
[5 a.m.] Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said on a Thursday call with the Texas GOP that his office will release on Friday state sales tax revenues for the past month. Hegar said his office would have normally held off on releasing the total until next week, but, as he noted on the call, “they are unprecedented numbers — how quick they have gone down.”
The numbers are expected the same day that businesses begin reopening under Gov. Greg Abbott's plan to slowly revive the state's economy, which has taken a beating from efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Still, some experts say that businesses may have a hard time making a profit under officials' new guidelines — and that many Texans still don't feel safe enough to venture out for unnecessary trips. Texas recorded 50 deaths from the new coronavirus Thursday, the highest one-day total since the pandemic began. The state also reported 1,033 new cases Thursday — the third-highest increase since the state began reporting coronavirus case counts. — Cassi Pollock
Disclosure: Texas State University, the University of Texas System, the Texas A&M University System, the Texas Tech University System and the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.