Thursday’s biggest developments
- Texas reports largest daily increases in cases and deaths
- More than 140,000 Texans filed for unemployment last week
- Austin nursing home sued by family of worker who died of COVID-19
- Governor to announce more reopening plans
Supreme Court declines to get involved in Texas prison inmates' coronavirus lawsuit
[6:32 p.m.] The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intervene in a lawsuit over coronavirus protections for older inmates at a Texas prison, leaving the issue in the lower courts for now.
Inmates at the Pack Unit, a geriatric prison near College Station, sued the state’s prison system in late March over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming the state was failing to protect them from the rapidly spreading virus. In April, a federal judge in Houston ordered the prison to provide hand sanitizer and face masks to inmates there as part of a suite of protections. But a higher court halted that directive days later, ruling that Texas did not have to take those steps while the case makes its way through the court system.
The inmates asked the Supreme Court to vacate that holding, but the high court declined to do so Thursday. Two justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, wrote in a statement that the inmates’ allegations are “disturbing” but that it is “hard to conclude” that the appeals court was wrong at such an early stage in the case.
Texas reports largest daily increases in cases and deaths
[5:30 p.m.] Texas reported 1,448 more cases of the new coronavirus Thursday, an increase of about 3% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 43,851.
The state has also reported 58 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 1,216 — an increase of about 5% from Wednesday. Both of these are largest daily increases the state has reported. But they also come as testing has increased across the state.
No new counties reported their first cases Thursday; over 85% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.
Harris County has reported the most cases, 8,621, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 6,602 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents. Harris County also reported five additional deaths, bringing its total to 188 deaths, more than any other county.
As of Thursday, 1,648 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s a decrease of 28 patients from Wednesday. At least 623,284 tests have been conducted. — Chris Essig
Oil and gas industry expected to cut another 1,000 jobs in Texas
[4:56 p.m.] Companies across the oil and gas industries are expected to cut another 1,000 jobs, the Houston Chronicle reports.
The job losses come weeks after oil prices crashed into negative territory due to a steep decrease in demand during coronavirus shutdowns.
ProPetro Services, a Midland oilfield service company, laid off 392 workers across its hydraulic fracturing facility and corporate headquarters. On Monday, railcar manufacturer UTLX announced plans to lay off 278 Houston employees in July. The industries have already shed almost 33,000 jobs across Texas and other oil-producing states, the Chronicle reports. — Stacy Fernández
Governor to announce more reopening plans
[9:30 a.m.] Gov. Greg Abbott is set to to announce another set of reopening plans Monday.
“We’re opening Texas as fast as possible while also containing the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a Wednesday night interview with KETK-TV.
Health experts say that even small steps toward reopening businesses will increase the number of people who become sick from the virus. The governor has allowed the reopening of a number of businesses across industries over the last two weeks, including restaurants, retailers and hair salons. Originally Abbott said bars would get the go-ahead to reopen by mid-May. He has stopped short of putting a date on their reopening, saying he needs more information from experts to figure out how to reopen them safely.
“Part of what we seek to do this coming Monday is seek to get the advice of our four-doctor medical team about safe ways that current businesses may be allowed to open up even further and safe ways that certain businesses that are not open may be allowed to open,” Abbott said in an interview Wednesday evening with WOAI-TV. “So we are still providing information to our medical team, getting advice back from our medical team, and we will be making these decisions here in the coming days."
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen also went on the air to defend the governor’s decision to reopen more businesses.
“If Texans follow the health guidelines of washing their hands, social distancing, wearing a face covering when they go out in public, then we can be successful in reopening our economy, getting Texans back to work,” Bonnen said on KETK. — Stacy Fernández and Patrick Svitek
More than 140,000 Texans filed for unemployment last week
[7:45 a.m.] Last week, 141,672 Texans filed for unemployment, bringing the total number of claims to 1.9 million in the past two months.
This comes as state and local orders aiming to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic have shuttered stores and led to massive layoffs and furloughs. And likely thousands more are still struggling to apply, running into website crashes and busy phone lines. Nationwide, just shy of 3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week.
Last week’s claims are down more than 40% from the week ending May 2, when more than 240,000 Texans filed for unemployment.
The Texas Workforce Commission has paid out over $5.2 billion in benefits using state and federal funding, Cisco Gamez, a spokesperson for the commission, said at a Wednesday media briefing. — Clare Proctor
Texas has deployed 2,000 contact tracers, plans to double that
[5 a.m.] State officials say they have about half of the contact tracers they need to spot and contain new cases of COVID-19, the San Antonio Express-News reported. An aide to Gov. Greg Abbott told the paper that 2,000 tracers have been deployed. That’s half of the 4,000 the governor wants in place by the end of the month.
Contact tracers are public health workers who help identify and notify everyone a COVID-19 patient has had close contact with while he or she has been infectious. — Naomi Andu
Austin nursing home sued by family of worker who died of COVID-19
[5 a.m.] The family of an Austin nursing home worker who died of the coronavirus last month is suing the facility and its operators, saying they didn’t take appropriate steps to prevent an outbreak that has killed 18 patients and infected many more, the Austin American-Statesman reported. — Texas Tribune staff