84ºF

Here’s how many coronavirus cases there are in Texas — and everything else you need to know

An employee wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant to sanitize a train amid coronavirus fears in the country of Georgia. Photo credit:
An employee wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant to sanitize a train amid coronavirus fears in the country of Georgia. Photo credit: (REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze)

Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a statewide public health disaster as community spread of the new coronavirus has hit and the number of cases is expected to increase exponentially. He issued an executive order March 19 that closes bars, gyms, schools and restaurants. Takeout is still allowed.

How many people in Texas have coronavirus?

Daily data on the number of cases in Texas is reported by the Department of State Health Services. On March 24, the agency said it changed its reporting system to track case counts directly from counties instead of relying on official case forms, which come in later and were causing the state’s official count to lag hundreds behind other tallies.

The largest numbers of cases have mostly been centered in the Houston area, in North Texas and in San Antonio. One case has been confirmed in a Texas prison. All five of the state’s most populous urban areas have cases.

Is coronavirus spreading person to person in Texas?

Yes. That has prompted Abbott to promise more testing capacity and urge Texans to practice social distancing, something health experts and local officials have also promoted. Community spread, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as the “occurrence of cases for which the source of infection is unknown,” has prompted school districts and colleges across the state to suspend classes, move to online courses or cancel the remainder of the school year. Community spread has also spurred local officials throughout the state to prohibit in-person dining and close bars and clubs.

How will the disruptions affect the state’s economy?

The number of Texans filing for unemployment increased 860% the week ending March 21 compared to the week before. Nationally, nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment relief the week ending March 21.

On March 22, Comptroller Glenn Hegar told Texas House members that while it was too soon for specific forecasts, both the general revenue for the state budget and the state's savings account balance will be drastically lower when he makes a revised fiscal forecast later this year. On March 24, Hegar said that the state's unemployment rate could be headed for the double digits, which could exceed the historic high of 1986's 9.2% unemployment rate.

While the full economic fallout caused by coronavirus can't yet be predicted, entire industries are facing dramatic revenue drops, and Texas business owners are already feeling the financial pain of event cancellations and social distancing. Experts also fear COVID-19 will hurt trade in the state.

Restaurant owners asked the state to waive or postpone February's monthly sales taxes, but officials declined, citing the need for revenue to help hospitals and emergency services respond. To combat the economic devastation, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that small businesses can apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, a long-term, low-interest loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. But the commercial disruption of social distancing has raised more questions than answers for Texans whose jobs have been affected.

What’s the difference between stay-at-home orders and curfews?

Various jurisdictions have implemented their own responses to the new coronavirus, including shelter-in-place orders and curfews, after Abbott declined March 22 to order a statewide stay-at-home order.

Large counties across Texas have issued stay-at-home orders for their residents. The orders generally tell residents to leave their houses only for essential activities, such as going to the grocery store or seeing the doctor.

Instead of implementing a stay-at-home order, Hidalgo County has implemented a curfew, which also orders residents not to leave their homes except for essential services. However, unlike the orders by the larger Texas counties, the curfew applies only between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

What is Texas’ testing capacity?

Texas appears to be lagging behind other populous states in testing for COVID-19.

Public testing is available in San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Houston, and more than 11,000 people have been tested in Texas as of March 24. Abbott said he expects the state to start testing 10,000 people weekly and is expecting 15,000 test kits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.