Gov Sends Emergency Crews to West Texas
with Virus on the Rise as Standards Relaxed
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
October 16, 2020
Texas is entering the final 17 days before the general election with the coronavirus in the early stages of a surge that's been under way throughout the month of October as the second wave that experts have been predicting appears to be off the ground nationwide.
After speeding up the Texas reopening this week after four months at a slow crawl, Governor Greg Abbott effectively acknowledged on Friday that the virus is out of control again in some parts of the state with the deployment of medical personnel and supplies to the Lubbock and Amarillo areas that have been two of the nation's hottest spots in October.
"As the Amarillo and Lubbock communities see a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, the State of Texas is providing support to hospitals throughout these two regions," Abbott said. "The additional medical personnel, supplies, and PPE surged to the Panhandle and South Plains will help these communities care for patients and contain the spread of this virus.
Texas has recorded 59,674 new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks based on the state's deflated official count - the highest number here in that span of time since the final half of June that prompted Abbott to give local leaders the ability to have mask mandates in place for businesses before issuing a statewide face covering order on July 2.
The Lone Star State has had somewhere between 816,000 and 855,000 people test positive since the initial outbreak in March. More than 17,000 virus victims here have died during that time according to Johns Hopkins University and the New York Times.
But the disease has been making a comeback in Texas after shrinking daily increases during the past three months with most people sporting masks in public in metropolitan areas and pockets of resistance to emergency safety measures in rural areas.
Amarillo and Lubbock have been ranked among the 10 metros in the U.S. with the highest number of positive tests in the past week when adjusted for population. Potter and Randall counties over which Amarillo is spread have had the first and third highest per capita increases in Texas in the past seven days while Lubbock County is second in that regard based on tracking data at Harvard and Brown University. .
But the virus has been surging at troubling levels in Wichita and El Paso counties as well. The New York Times has Lubbock and Wichita Falls ranked eighth and 11th in the nation respectively tonight in terms of areas that have been on fire with the potential to get worse at the rates they've been going.
Ten Texas counties - McLennan, Brazos, Midland, Tarrant, Grayson, Montgomery, Cameron, Dallas, Hidalgo and Parker - all are coded orange by the Ivy League researchers to signify accelerated spreads in areas where stay at home orders and extensive testing and contact tracing programs are highly recommended.
Cameron and Hidalgo counties on the border in the Rio Grande Valley were devastated by the disease during the summer when Nueces County had the highest rates with Corpus Christi as the anchor on the southeast Texas coast. While the virus is starting to surge again in Hidalgo and Cameron at the state's southern tip, Nueces County has been a model for the fall with the lowest rate of weekly increases among the state's largest metros this month so far.
After going down for more than three months as a direct result of government restrictions and expanded testing, the virus is making a comeback in Texas due to a mix of factors that include the reopening of schools and violations of common sense safety standards with college students and GOP campaign events as major superspreaders.
more to come ...