What you need to know Tuesday:
Texas suggests voters bring hand sanitizer to the polls
With voting in the primary runoff election starting next month in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the Texas secretary of state on Tuesday issued “minimum recommended health protocols” for elections, including a suggestion that voters bring their own hand sanitizer to the polls and that they "may want to consider" voting curbside if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
In an eight-page document, Secretary of State Ruth Hughs laid out checklists for voters and election workers that range from self-screening for symptoms to increased sanitation of voting equipment — none of which are binding and many of which were already being considered by local election officials planning for the first statewide election during the coronavirus pandemic. Read more about the protocols here. — Alexa Ura
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott adds water parks, mall food courts to reopenings list
Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation Tuesday announcing additional services and activities that can resume under his second wave of reopenings, allowing food courts in shopping malls to reopen immediately and giving the green light for water parks to begin operations with limited capacity starting Friday.
Recreational sports programs for adults can restart Sunday, though games and similar competitions may not recommence until June 15. Abbott also permitted driver education programs to resume operations immediately. Read more coverage of this decision here. — Alex Samuels
Texas reports 56,560 cases and 1,536 deaths
Texas reported 589 more cases of the new coronavirus Tuesday, an increase of about 1% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 56,560. One new county, Hudspeth, reported its first case Tuesday; over 90% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.
Harris County has reported the most cases, 10,995, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 8,998 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.
As of yesterday, at least 821,233 viral tests and 84,841 antibody tests have been administered.
The state has reported nine additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 1,536 — an increase of less than 1% from Monday. Harris County reported one additional death, bringing its total to 221 deaths, more than any other county.
As of Tuesday, 1,534 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s an increase of 23 patients from Monday. — Carla Astudillo
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Texas A&M using CARES Act funds for student grants
Texas A&M University has begun deploying funds that the school secured through the CARES Act, a multitrillion-dollar piece of legislation Congress passed this spring.
A&M is dispensing grants to students who are using the money to mitigate the disruption incurred from a shutdown of their places of employment or a mid-school-year relocation, according to Joe Pettibon, the school's vice president for enrollment and academic services.
"The biggest needs we see are paying rent and paying [for] food," he said in an interview with The Texas Tribune. Some of the hardest-hit students are the ones who worked in the service industry, he added. "They had to essentially stop working."
Texas A&M is also using CARES funding to offset some of the school's own expenses. — Abby Livingston
More than 26,000 workers in Texas' oil and gas industry lost jobs in April
More than 26,000 employees working in the Texas oil and gas industry lost their jobs in April as the coronavirus outbreak has shuttered global oil demand, the Houston Chronicle first reported.
Workers out in the field — including drilling rig operators and equipment manufacturers — were affected most, with the oilfield service sector accounting for more than 22,000 of the industry’s jobs lost in April, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.
The loss of jobs and revenues have hurt the oil and gas industry, but the losses will be felt across the state. Many local budgets, as well as the state budget, receive various sources of funding from oil and gas taxes. As a result, residents are likely to feel the effects. Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen have already ordered state agencies to cut budgets by 5%. — Mitchell Ferman
Baylor Scott & White Health to lay off 1,200 workers
Baylor Scott & White Health plans to lay off about 1,200 employees, furlough an unspecified number of workers and cut the pay of about 300 senior leaders, The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday.
The extensive nonprofit hospital system spent $85 million on supplies and modifications in anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 patients. But with the state suspension of elective surgeries for several weeks and a lower number of positive coronavirus cases than expected, hospitals in the system have experienced a steep decline in patients.
System CEO Jim Hinton said in a video to employers that the drop in patients ranged between 50% and 90%, the News reported.
The financial devastation of the pandemic has ripped through the health industry across the state. More than 60% of Texas physicians have taken pay cuts since the start of the pandemic, according to a Texas Medical Association survey.
In the Baylor hospital system, most front-line workers won’t be affected by the layoffs, Hinton said. Workers being laid off will be notified this week and paid through June 7. — Clare Proctor
Overnight camping to resume at Texas state parks
State parks will start accepting a limited number of reservations Wednesday for overnight camping, according to a Tuesday news release from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Campers can reserve spots with arrival dates between June 1 and Sept. 7, with limitations based on individual parks. All guests need to make overnight reservations in advance, either online or by calling.
“Our careful and deliberate approach to phasing in the reopening has served our visitors, volunteers, and staff well as we have continued our emphasis on the safety of everyone in the parks,” said Carter Smith, the department’s executive director. “Even in this limited capacity, we are glad that we can get more Texans and their families safely back on the trails and in the campsites.”
The department encourages campers to bring hand sanitizer and face masks when visiting state parks, and social distancing recommendations are still in effect, according to the release. Equipment rentals and interactive programs will remain closed at state parks. — Clare Proctor
Texas GOP would welcome Republican National Convention if moved from North Carolina
Texas Republican Party Chair James Dickey said Monday that the state would gladly host the Republican National Convention in August if North Carolina can’t guarantee full occupancy, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
“Texas would welcome President Trump and the RNC Convention,” Dickey told the American-Statesman. “Until then, based upon Gov. Abbott’s progress in opening Texas, we are on track for our state convention as planned in person in Houston in July.”
The response comes after President Donald Trump threatened in a series of tweets Monday morning to pull the convention from North Carolina if the state refuses to guarantee it will be open come August. In the event North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper can’t ensure that, Trump tweeted that the party will seek out other states to host. As scheduled, the convention will take place from Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Vice President Mike Pence said in a Fox News interview Monday that Texas, Florida and Georgia are among the states the Republican Party would consider if North Carolina doesn’t remain an option.
“These national conventions literally take many months to organize and prepare,” Pence said. “The president is absolutely intent on ensuring, as we see our nation continue to make steady progress on putting the coronavirus epidemic in the past, that come this August, we’ll be able to come together in a safe and responsible venue.” — Clare Proctor
Disclosure: The Texas secretary of state, Texas A&M University, Baylor Scott & White Health and the Texas Medical Association have been financial supporters 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.