Monday's biggest developments
- Texas reports 38,869 cases and 1,088 deaths as of Sunday afternoon
- San Antonio offers testing to asymptomatic residents, as testing capabilities continue to expand statewide
- Texas says it will test every nursing home resident and staffer
Gov. Greg Abbott gives details on COVID-19 funds for smaller cities
[6:15 p.m.] In a letter Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott told county and city officials throughout the state that $1.85 billion in COVID-19 relief funds will be allocated to jurisdictions of less than 500,000 people according to population. Until now, it was unclear how the state would distribute those funds to smaller jurisdictions.
The 18 cities and counties in Texas with more than 500,000 people will receive their funds directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Previously, more than 100 mayors from cities with less than 500,000 people signed a letter to the governor asking for guidelines on how to apply for their share of money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
In his letter, Abbott said that the counties and cities that didn't receive direct allocations from the federal government can apply for a per capita allocation of the $1.85 billion. He also said the first allocation will be made available on a $55 per capita allotment.
The Texas Division of Emergency Management will be in charge of the applications and the reimbursement process. Jurisdictions will be able to use this money for medical and public health expenses, payroll expenses for some employees working during the pandemic, and other actions related to public health and economic support. — Juan Pablo Garnham
Texas says it will test every nursing home resident and staffer
[4:45 p.m.] Each resident and staffer at all Texas nursing homes will be tested for the novel coronavirus, a spokesman for Gov. Greg Abbott told The Texas Tribune.
Abbott has directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services to ensure the widespread testing, the spokesman, John Wittman, said Monday.
There have been more than 300 deaths in care centers, though the state has not named the facilities in which those deaths occurred. In Texas, more than 40% of the state’s coronavirus deaths are linked to long-term care facilities, according to a Tribune analysis. Health authorities have yet to reveal the total number of infections across care centers. — Raga Justin
Texas reports 39,869 cases and 1,100 deaths
[3:45 p.m.] Texas reported 1,000 more cases of the new coronavirus Monday, an increase of about 3% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 39,869. No new counties reported cases Monday; over 85% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.
Harris County has reported the most cases, 7,878, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 5,870 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.
The state has reported 12 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 1,100 — an increase of about 1% from Sunday. Harris County reported four additional deaths, bringing its total to 172 deaths, more than any other county.
As of Monday, 1,525 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s a decrease of 101 patients from Sunday. At least 525,697 tests have been conducted. — Anna Novak
Texas AG Ken Paxton joins Republican colleagues in calling for investigation of China
[2 p.m.] Republican attorneys general across the country, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, are pushing for a congressional investigation into the Chinese government and its actions responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
Paxton and 16 other attorneys general signed a letter from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, addressed to leaders of Congress and dated May 9. All are members of the Republican Attorneys General Association.
“Recent reports suggest that the communist Chinese government willfully and knowingly concealed information about the severity of the virus while simultaneously stockpiling personal protective equipment,” Wilson wrote in the letter to Congress. The Chinese government’s “mishandling and deliberate deception” is directly linked to America’s death tolls and economic hardship, RAGA said in a statement applauding the push for an investigation.
In April, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against China’s government and other Chinese officials, alleging that suppression of information and denial of COVID-19 led to severe consequences in Missouri. Other attorneys general have announced their intent to follow suit.
Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. — Raga Justin
San Antonio offering free testing for asymptomatic residents
[1:07 p.m.] The city of San Antonio announced it will begin testing asymptomatic individuals for COVID-19, loosening prior requirements that residents had to show some symptoms, including a fever, dry cough or chills, in order to get a free test.
The state has begun ramping up testing in order to catch unreported coronavirus cases. As of Monday, there had been nearly 514,000 tests conducted across Texas.
In San Antonio, asymptomatic tests will continue to be free, according to a city press release. Experts have warned that high fees for tests could prevent uninsured residents from seeking testing.
“It is important for the uninsured residents to know they also have access to testing at no charge and have resources to make sure they are healthy and are aware of services that are available in our city,” said Dawn Emerick, director of Metro Health, in the statement.
While most cities have announced increased testing access, with emphasis on first responders and essential workers, Houston was the first major city to expand testing to asymptomatic residents, according to the Houston Chronicle. — Raga Justin
DHS reschedules hearings for asylum seekers amid coronavirus
[12:35 p.m.] The Department of Homeland Security announced late Sunday that it’s rescheduling hearings for asylum seekers and temporarily suspending a policy that required some asylum seekers to travel during the pandemic to ports of entry in Mexico for updated court documents.
Under the Migrant Protection Protocols, asylum seekers are forced to wait in Mexico for their hearings in American courtrooms. But the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a monthslong postponement of those hearings. Until Sunday, migrants were still required to arrive at designated ports of entry to receive new court dates, a policy immigration attorneys criticized because it forced asylum seekers to travel through dangerous parts of Mexico while social distancing was difficult or impossible.
Under the temporary policy, migrants are now allowed to remain where they are until their new court dates. The asylum seekers are instructed to arrive for their hearings one month after their current scheduled dates.
“For example, if the hearing date is May 10th, individuals should present themselves on June 10th,” the DHS statement explains. “DHS and [the Executive office for Immigration Review] are deeply committed to ensuring the health and safety of aliens, our frontline officers, immigration court professionals, and our citizens.”
Asylum seekers with court dates on or after June 22 should proceed normally unless the DHS makes another change. — Julián Aguilar
More than 400 cases reported in North Texas federal prison
[5 a.m.] The number of coronavirus cases in a Tarrant County federal prison outbreak grew to 423 on Sunday, The Dallas Morning News reported.
The outbreak occurred at Federal Medical Center Fort Worth, a prison for men who have special medical needs or who are seriously ill.
Prison and jail populations may be especially vulnerable during an outbreak. The virus is fully entrenched in the Texas prison system, confirmed to have infected more than 1,600 inmates and employees at dozens of units as of last week. — Edgar Walters
Texas has billions in its rainy day fund. But legislators say they won’t use it until January.
[5 a.m.] As Texas' economy reels from a monthlong shutdown of commerce statewide, unprecedented unemployment and falling oil prices, some Texans are calling on officials to tap into the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund that has billions of tax dollars officials have been saving for years.
Many legislators agree the fund is going to be needed. But Texans shouldn’t expect it to be tapped soon unless Gov. Greg Abbott calls the Legislature back to Austin for a special legislative session before next year’s regular session, which many believe is unlikely.
And when lawmakers do meet again, they are more likely to use the fund to plug expected shortfalls in the state budget than to provide any sort of state-level version of an economic relief package like Congress passed. — Clare Proctor