What you need to know Monday:
State prison in West Texas reports 65 COVID-19 cases
More than 60 inmates in state custody in Pecos County tested positive for the new coronavirus, quadrupling the west Texas county’s case count.
The spike of 65 cases of COVID-19 was reported by the Fort Stockton Pioneer, which said it brought Pecos County’s total to 93 cases. The publication said the inmates are housed at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s N5 Unit in Fort Stockton, which is about 85 miles southwest of Odessa.
County Judge Joe Shuster said he is waiting for instructions from Gov. Greg Abbott on how best to address the outbreak, the Pioneer reported.
Texas reports 64,880 cases and 1,678 deaths
Texas reported 593 more cases of the new coronavirus Monday, bringing the total number of known cases to 64,880. In the last week, the state reported an average of 1,273 new cases per day.
No new counties reported their first case Monday; almost every county in Texas has reported at least one confirmed case of the virus. Harris County has reported the most cases, 12,276, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 10,234 cases. The Tribune publishes maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.
The state has reported six additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 1,678. In the last week, the state reported an average 22 additional deaths per day. Harris County reported one additional death Monday, bringing its total to 232 deaths, more than any other county.
Gov. Greg Abbott is looking at two specific metrics to justify his decision to restart the Texas economy — the positive test rate and hospitalization levels. As of yesterday, at least 970,031 viral tests and 103,460 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 6.01% is calculated by dividing the 7-day average of positive cases by the 7-day average of viral tests conducted. This shows how the situation has changed over time by de-emphasizing daily swings. Public health experts want the infection rate to remain below 6%.
As of Monday, 1,756 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s an increase of 72 patients from Sunday. — Chris Essig
UT-Austin moves its biggest classes online
The University of Texas at Austin will hold 400 of its biggest classes online next fall, interim president Jay Hartzell told The Daily Texan Monday.
UT is aiming to hold most of its other 11,000 fall classes in-person, the Daily Texan reported. It has not yet offered clarity on how those will be managed. UT previously announced that on-campus classes will run from August to Thanksgiving and then continue remotely in an effort to limit student travel.
The reopening announcement follows the Texas A&M University system guidelines unveiled last week, when regents approved measures limiting campus interactions and enforcing social distancing. System officials said certain classes would be conducted both online and in-person, assigning students to one option each class session. Certain courses will be prioritized for in-person instruction, such as speech, performance and clinical classes. Officials did not say how many classes would be online-only. — Raga Justin
Abbott issues disaster declaration over protests
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Sunday afternoon that the entire state of Texas will be placed under a disaster declaration in response to demonstrators in several Texas cities protesting the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed Monday in Minneapolis police custody.
The declaration allowed Abbott to designate federal law enforcement officers to perform the duties of peace officers in Texas.
Thousands of protesters marched in Texas cities on Friday and Saturday, outraged after Floyd was filmed crying out for help as a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to his neck. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was later arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. — Alex Samuels
No consensus on whether El Paso is ready to reopen
Gov. Greg Abbott had given El Paso County and the Amarillo area — two of the state's biggest recent COVID-19 hot spots — a temporary reprieve from implementing Texas' next phase of reopening. That reprieve was set to last until last Friday, both areas were required to implement the newest phase of reopening that took effect in the rest of the state the previous week.
While Abbott said the Amarillo area had "turned a corner," the picture in the El Paso area wasn't as clear. County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said officials have made good progress in increasing testing for the new coronavirus amid a surge in new cases this month. But he said he hadn’t seen enough improvement to be sure the county is ready for the expanded opening. El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, on the other hand, said the situation in El Paso is more manageable now. A spokesman for Abbott echoed that optimism, citing a decline in the infection rate and stability with hospital capacity — Julián Aguilar
Trib stories you may have missed: