Corpus Christi Overtakes Amarillo in Texas
COVID-19 Count Amid Border Killing Spree
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
July 25, 2020
The sparkling Texas city by the sea has knocked the steam out of Governor Greg Abbott's only significant victory in the coronavirus fight with the Corpus Christi area supplanting Amarillo on Saturday as the official epicenter in the Lone Star State.
Hurricane Hanna is barely a ripple compared to the death and suffering that Nueces County has experienced since Abbott declared that the state had the virus contained two months ago after a testing surge in the Panhandle where the Amarillo area straddles Potter and Randall counties as the original Texas epicenter.
While Nueces has relegated Potter County to the second spot on the Texas COVID-19 leader board in the infection per capita count, the contagion has claimed more lives in the Rio Grande Valley than any other place in the state in the midst of a wave that got under way in the closing days of May.
The death toll has been highest in Hidalgo County where 304 fatalities have been recorded in the past 10 days alone. The fatality has been higher in neighboring Cameron County than any other major Texas population center with the exception of Hidalgo.
More people died from coronavirus infections in Potter County than anywhere else in the state during the first three months after the initial outbreak in Texas in early March. But Potter ranks fifth now in the fatality tally per capita with the South Texas destinations of Nueces and Webb counties moving into the fourth and fifth spots respectively today.
Texas has reported 1,453 virus deaths in the past 10 days with Hidalgo and Cameron counties at the southern tip of the state accounting for more than 27 percent of the total. With the the death count more than doubling in the Corpus Christi and Laredo areas during the same span of time, a total of 509 people have lost their lives to virus infections since July 15 in the four largest counties in South Texas combined.
After countless defeats in the direction of the state's response to the first and second coronavirus surges, Abbott has a chance for some redemption with a more disciplined approach in July with a statewide mask order and the delegation of authority to Texas cities and counties that have been much more successful than the state in damage control and prevention.
The daily increases in the new case count have been shrinking in size for the past 10 days - an early indication of a flattening curve here. The testing positivity rate in Texas has gone down for seven of the past eight days in a direct and reverse correlation with a significant increase in testing.
Abbott's initial goal in the pandemic's first months appeared to staying on the good side of President Donald Trump who'd praised the governor in early May while touting Texas as a model for the nation on how to beat the virus. But Abbott has been ignoring Trump's push for reductions in testing because the governor knows that would be foolish to listen to the president after already being shamed once by the disease with an overeager reopening that opened the gates for the record-crushing second surge.
The governor spent the first few weeks of June in denial about the severity of the second outbreak that was inevitable in the wake of the protests that erupted across the state and the nation on Memorial Day weekend. Abbott even had John Zerwas - a former state lawmaker who's a University of Texas official now - appear with him at press briefings to assure Texans that the hospitals here had plenty of space despite soaring case counts when they actually were on the verge of running out of intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 patients.
After overturning local mask mandates with the unveiling of the reopening in early May, the governor made another monstrous mistake when he capitulated to a tea party uproar with the gutting of his authority to enforce his own emergency restrictions in a panicked reaction to the staged Shelley Luther jailing in Dallas.
Abbott finally began to recognize that he'd jumped the gun on the reopening late last month when he shut down the bars in Texas and gave local leaders the ability to force businesses to require masks for customers and employees.
But the governor had resisted the need to close the Texas beaches as the economic magnates and engines for major coastal destinations from Galveston to Corpus Christi to South Padre Island in Cameron County. While Abbott eventually allowed local officials to shut down the beaches in their jurisdictions for the Fourth of July weekend, it was too late to prevent Nueces County from shuttering the beaches as the home to the seaside resort of Port Aransas and the northern strip of Padre Island.
After having one of the lowest coronavirus counts in Texas during the initial outbreak, Nueces County has been an oven with the number of new cases skyrocketing 234 percent since the first of July 1. Nueces has recorded 2,798 COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 people there. Potter County has dropped to second with 2,792 infections for every 100,000 residents there.
Nueces and Potter counties have had higher rates of coronavirus infections than the counties where Brooklyn and Manhattan are located in the state of New York that's given Texas and the rest of the nation a clinic on how to flatten the curve with more than optimistic rhetoric.