A growing epidemic in the Texas Panhandle is a big reason for the outbreak. More than 700 new cases were reported to Amarillo, Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Saturday, warning that the numbers will continue to climb as the state increases testing at this hotspot.
Prior to Saturday, Texas had never reported more than 1,500 cases in a single day and had recorded an average of 1,227 cases per day in the past 7 days.
Moments after the release of the new figures, Abbott issued a statement saying that emergency response teams dispatched to Amarillo earlier this month were testing more people and identifying more people in the Texas Panhandle as they were trying to contain the epidemic.
“This is exactly why I created emergency response teams,” said Abbott. “By immediately deploying resources and supplies to these high-risk areas, we will identify positive cases, isolate individuals and ensure that any epidemic is contained quickly, which is the strategy deployed in Amarillo.”
Amarillo officials have traced an increase in the number of cases in the region’s meat packaging industry. City officials told the Amarillo Globe-News that many of the tests involved a Tyson Foods meat packing plant near Amarillo.
The increase in the number of positive cases occurs at the same time that Texas has experienced an increase in deaths in the past three days. The state reported 33 more deaths on Saturday, bringing the total at three days to 147, the worst three days since the start of the pandemic. The state reported 58 deaths on Thursday – the largest one-day increase in one-day deaths in Texas in the fight against COVID-19.
As positive numbers and deaths increase, Abbott has always pointed out that the state’s death rate is far lower than most other states and that the state still has many hospital beds and ventilators. Texas has 1,791 people hospitalized and has over 17,000 beds available.
Overall, Texas reported 1,305 deaths. Other large states have had many more. In California, 3,204 people died and in New York, 22,478.
Abbott tried to reopen the state’s economy. On May 1, Abbott authorized restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters and retail stores to open at 25% capacity with social distancing guidelines in place. He followed that up with the opening of hair salons and hair salons on May 8. Abbott was to announce on Monday whether restaurants, malls, theaters and retail stores could reach 50% capacity.