Greg Abbott, governor’s order is clearest sign to date that southern and western states could be forced to change course just a month after giving businesses the go-ahead to resume their activities.
“The last thing we want to do as a state is to back off and close businesses,” said Abbott. “This temporary pause will help our state correlate the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state to business.”
Abbott’s order was released just hours before Texas reached a new record for the number of new coronavirus cases in a single day. The state health department said nearly 6,000 people had tested positive for the virus, bringing the cumulative number of cases to 131,917.
The 5,996 new cases were the highest in the country on Thursday, according to the Coronavirus Tracking Project, which reported that the United States had established another all-day record increase of nearly 42,000 infections. This was up from 38,700 on Wednesday, the previous day’s high.
The number of Texans hospitalized for the virus also reached a record level of 4,739, an increase of 350 the previous day and a jump of more than 470% compared to the total in early April.
Even after allowing for the “temporary break,” Texas adopted one of the most aggressive economic reopening plans in the United States, with the majority of businesses – including bars and restaurants – being allowed to operate at 50% of their capacity. These measures will not be canceled by the new order.
The state lifted the restrictions much faster than New York, which said on Thursday that the number of patients hospitalized for the virus had dropped below 1,000 for the first time since March 18.
Peter Hotez, professor of virology at the Baylor School of Medicine in Houston, predicted that the growing number of hospitalizations would jump deaths in “weeks”, forcing Abbott to shut down parts of the economy. State.
“The break alone will maintain the status quo, but the status quo is unacceptable, it still shows a very aggressive increase,” said Dr. Hotez. “I think he will have no choice but to remember things. ”
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Thursday that the number of infections nationwide could be 10 times higher than official statistics suggest due to the number of asymptomatic cases.
“Our best guess right now is that for each reported case there are actually 10 other infections,” said Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, during a conference call with reporters.
The CDC said it came to this conclusion by examining blood samples to see if people had developed antibodies to the disease.
Almost 2.4 million people have tested positive for coronavirus in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University, but CDC analysis would suggest that 24 million – or about 7% of the population – have contracted the disease. .
In addition to Texas, two other states registered more than 5,000 new cases on Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project: Florida with 5,004 and California with 5,349, both down from Wednesday’s record increases. Arizona reported new cases near daily records at 3,056.
Texas is the second state this week to halt plans to reopen due to the new epidemic, following similar action by North Carolina on Wednesday.
Several large American companies have also intervened to reverse the reopening plans, even without government guidance. Apple, for example, has closed its seven retail stores in Houston and will close another 14 in Florida as of Friday, while Walt Disney has postponed the planned reopening of its theme parks in California.
The prospect of reimposing lock-in restrictions in some of the largest states has dampened investor optimism about the rapid recovery of the world’s largest economy.
The reversals come at a time when the country is facing its worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. The US Department of Labor announced on Thursday that another 1.48 million Americans had applied for unemployment benefits last week, the 12th consecutive week of more than one million claims.
“A resurgence of infections and a resumption of social isolation, mandatory or voluntary, are likely to be a persistent risk, at least until a vaccine is developed or the treatment options improve sufficiently” said Esther George, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, in an address to the Economic Club of Kansas City on Thursday.
Abbott’s decree banning all surgeries and elective procedures in Texas is similar to the measures taken in New York and New Jersey – the states hardest hit at the start of the American epidemic – in March.
They cover both Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas – by far the largest metropolitan areas in the state – as well as the counties surrounding Austin, the state capital and San Antonio.
Additional report by Mamta Badkar in New York
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