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Coronavirus in Texas

Coronavirus in Texas: Texas A&M System approves a plan for in-person classes during pandemic

Live updates: Texas reported 1,230 new coronavirus cases Friday. At least 61,006 Texans have tested positive for the virus, and 1,626 have died.

Customers wait in line to enter Chupacabra Cantina in downtown Austin as Texas bars reopened on May 22, 2020.

What you need to know Friday:

Texas reports 61,006 cases and 1,626 deaths

Texas reported 1,230 more cases of the new coronavirus Friday, bringing the total number of known cases to 61,006. In the last week, the state reported an average of 1,080 new cases per day.

Almost every county in Texas has reported at least one confirmed case of the virus. Harris County has reported the most cases, 11,770, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 9,587 cases. The Texas Tribune publishes maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.

The state has reported 25 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 1,626. In the last week, the state reported an average 21 additional deaths per day. Harris County reported one additional death Friday, bringing its total to 224 deaths, more than any other county.

Gov. Greg Abbott is looking at two metrics to justify his decision to let Texas businesses reopen — the positive test rate and hospitalization levels. As of yesterday, at least 893,275 viral tests and 96,719 antibody tests have been administered.

The positive test rate is the percentage of new cases to viral tests conducted. The current average daily infection rate of 5% is calculated by dividing the seven-day average of positive cases by the seven-day average of viral tests conducted. This shows how the situation has changed over time by deemphasizing daily swings. Public health experts want the infection rate to remain below 6%.

As of Friday, 1,701 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s an increase of nine patients from Thursday. — Mandi Cai

(Previously, The Texas Tribune incorrectly stated our formula for calculating the average daily infection rate. This has been corrected.)

Trib stories you may have missed:

  • Small-business loans: The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed legislation Thursday to ease rules on small-business owners who are participating in a loan program meant to mitigate the economic complications of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new legislation was a bipartisan effort, spearheaded by two freshmen, including U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin.
  • Prison outbreak: The U.S. 5th Circuit of Appeals held a hearing Thursday in a lawsuit accusing state officials of not doing enough to stem the spread of coronavirus in a geriatric prison. When two inmates first sued in March, no inmates at the unit were confirmed to have the virus. By Thursday's hearing, nearly 200 had tested positive and five had died.

Texas A&M System approves plan to allow in-person classes this fall

Next fall, Texas A&M students may be assigned which days they're allowed to go to class and which days class they'll be asked to stay home and follow along from their laptops. If there are 50 people in a math class, for example, half of them will be allowed to attend in person while the other half views online. For the next class, the students would swap places.

This is just one of the measures in a plan Texas A&M University System officials approved Friday in an effort to create social distance in traditionally crowded classrooms. The guidance will apply across the board to each of the system's 11 institutions. A&M is the first major university system in the state to formally adopt plans for the fall, though officials warned there is much more work to be done before classes begin in August. — Raga Justin

Chevron plans to lay off thousands, while Exxon Mobil says it has no such plans

Two top oil companies are taking different routes so far in dealing with the industry's downturn. Chevron said it would lay off 15% of its employees while Exxon Mobil has no plans for such cuts, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Chevron said in a statement that it was “streamlining our organizational structures to reflect the efficiencies and match projected activity levels. This is a difficult decision, and we do not make it lightly.”

The paper reported that the company employs about 7,000 people in the Houston area and about 45,000 people across the globe, but that Chevron did not provide details on where a reduction in its workforce would occur. — Brandon Formby

Abbott will extend early voting for November elections

Gov. Greg Abbott is extending the early voting period for an unspecified amount of time during the November election as concerns continue to persist around in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Abbott has already doubled the time period for the primary runoff election July 14, calling it necessary so that "election officials can implement appropriate social distancing and safe hygiene practices."

In an interview with KCBD-TV in Lubbock on Thursday afternoon, Abbott said he believes Texas voters will be able to cast their ballots safely not only this summer but also in the fall.

"Texas has always had early voting, and what I did for the July time period and what we will do again for the November time period is we will extend the early voting period," Abbott told the TV station. — Patrick Svitek

Lawmaker among group asking Texas Supreme Court to overrule Abbott's COVID-19 authority

A conservative activist and a Republican state representative are among a group of Texans asking the Texas Supreme Court to overturn the law that has allowed Gov. Greg Abbott to issue executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an emergency petition filed Friday morning.

The petition argues that the law is unconstitutional and even if upheld in court, the governor’s executive orders violated Texans' constitutional rights. The petition was signed by Steven Hotze, state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, and a handful of Texas business owners and pastors. Hotze, president of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, was previously part of a lawsuit to reopen churches in Harris County.

“The Governor contends he has the authority to unilaterally close businesses, trample on individual liberties, and limit [Texans'] ability to do business and move about freely,” the petition states. "By suspending provisions of the Texas Constitution, failing to convene the legislature for almost three months on an 'extraordinary occasion,' arbitrarily picking and choosing winners and losers, and unilaterally suspending the laws of the state of Texas, Abbott's numerous executive orders are unconstitutional and undercut the authority of the Texas Legislature." — Stacy Fernández

Disclosure: The Texas A&M University System 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.

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