Tuesday’s biggest developments:
- Texas reports 1,037 new cases, 22 additional deaths
- Gold's Gym files for bankruptcy protection
- Courts can resume in-person proceedings June 1, but not jury trials
- Gov. Greg Abbott plans to discuss Texas' coronavirus response with Trump
Galveston County judge calls on Abbott to freeze property assessments
[4:20 p.m.] Galveston County Judge Mark Henry sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday asking him to freeze 2020 property assessments at 2019 levels statewide.
The letter cited economic hardships related to the coronavirus pandemic, including the collapse in oil prices and a surge in unemployment.
“Asking Texans to pay more in property taxes this year based on pre-disaster property values would ‘prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster,’” Henry wrote in the letter. “Texans need the government to get out of the way of a robust economic recovery, and sending taxpayers a bigger bill does the opposite.”
Property values are based on appraisals conducted Jan. 1, before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the state and disrupted them, Henry wrote. He added that the system requiring taxpayers to contest their 2020 property values puts “an unfair burden on the taxpayer” due to the time and resources the process demands. — Clare Proctor
Texas reports 33,369 cases, 906 deaths
[1:15 p.m.] Texas reported 1,037 new cases of the new coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the total number of known cases to 33,369.
The state reported conducting 19,812 tests Tuesday; at least 427,210 tests have been conducted statewide.
Three new counties reported their first cases Tuesday; more than 80% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case. Harris County has reported the most, 6,967, followed by Dallas County with 4,370 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.
The state also reported 22 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 906 — an increase of about 2% from Monday. Harris County reported seven additional deaths, bringing its total to 140 deaths, more than any other county.
As of Tuesday, 1,888 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s an increase of 355 patients from Monday — Carla Astudillo
Dallas-based Gold’s Gym files for bankruptcy, but most locations unaffected
[12:45 p.m.] Gold’s Gym International filed for bankruptcy protections Monday, The Dallas Morning News reported. Headquartered in Dallas, Gold's closed 32 company-owned clubs because of the financial fallout of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Three gym locations in North Texas will permanently be closed.
The company has more than 700 locations worldwide, and its franchises — which make up about 90% of Gold’s Gym locations — won’t be affected by the bankruptcy.
The company is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows it to restructure its debts and assets while continuing to operate. Gold’s Gym plans to emerge from bankruptcy around Aug. 1.
“We are 1,000% not going out of business,” said Gold’s Gym CEO Adam Zeitsiff. “This is a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic.”
Gov. Greg Abbott has held off on reopening gyms and other select businesses like hair salons, barber shops and bars. On April 27, when he unveiled his plan to slowly reopen the economy, Abbott said he hopes those businesses can open “on or no later than mid-May.” — Clare Proctor
Counties can opt to resume in-person court proceedings June 1
Texas courts could resume nonessential proceedings in person as soon as June 1, according to new guidance from the state's Office of Court Administration.
Jury trials — on hold for weeks as court business slows in an attempt to minimize the potential for spreading the new coronavirus — could resume as soon as this summer, though state officials did not give a firm date. Currently, courts across the state have been directed to conduct all proceedings remotely, and only essential proceedings — like criminal magistration and removal hearings for child protective services — may be conducted in person if absolutely necessary.
Before resuming in-person operations, the guidance said, courts must put together proper safety protocols, including requirements for social distancing and face masks. — Emma Platoff
Texas inmates appeal to U.S. Supreme Court for coronavirus protections
[10:35 a.m.] Inmates at a Texas prison have taken their complaints to the U.S. Supreme Court, calling for reinstating protective measures against the new coronavirus, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Older inmates of the Pack Unit, a state prison in Navasota, about 25 miles from College Station, filed their appeal with the Supreme Court on Monday, pushing for regulations requiring inmates to receive hand soap and disposable hand towels, as well as masks for both inmates and officers, among other requests.
A federal district judge in Houston ordered April 16 that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice must follow these safeguards. But less than a week later, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the order, with a three-judge panel writing, “Although the district court might do things differently, mere ‘disagreement’ with TDCJ’s medical decisions does not establish deliberate indifference” to inmate welfare — a legal threshold for proceeding with cases concerning prison conditions.
One man at the Pack Unit died from pneumonia and was later found to have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The TDCJ tested the 53 men who shared a dorm with the man who died; none of them tested positive for the virus.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who oversees federal courts in Texas, is giving the state until Friday to respond to the filing. — Clare Proctor
Abbott to meet with Trump on Thursday about coronavirus
[9:58 a.m.] Gov. Greg Abbott plans to visit the White House on Thursday to meet with President Donald Trump about the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Abbott's office.
The meeting will come almost a week after Abbott let restaurants, stores, movie theaters and malls in Texas reopen at 25% capacity. Trump, who has been pushing for states to reopen their economies, applauded the move.
Politico's Playbook newsletter first reported Tuesday morning that Abbott and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds were expected at the White House this week. — Patrick Svitek
Texas oil regulator says idea to cut production is likely “dead”
[6 a.m.] As demand for oil has plunged across the world, Texas oil regulators are not expected to impose cuts to production Tuesday, a move that has been discussed widely since the coronavirus began spreading in the United States.
“We have probably missed our opportunity to lead on this,” Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton told Bloomberg TV on Monday.
The commission, which regulates the state’s huge oil and gas industry, is holding a public virtual meeting Tuesday, and Sitton said the process to potentially curb oil production in Texas — also called prorationing — has been “purely a political discussion.”
“I think proration is dead now,” Sitton said.
Railroad Commission Chairman Wayne Christian wrote an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle last week opposing prorationing. The third commissioner, Christi Craddick, has not said whether she will support the issue, but Sitton said the commissioners may not even take a vote during Tuesday’s meeting. — Mitchell Ferman
Correction: Because of incorrect information released by the state, a previous version of this story misstated the number of coronavirus tests conducted Tuesday and the cumulative total of tests.