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Coronavirus updates in Texas: State’s largest counties issue stay-at-home orders; rural hospitals face critical challenges

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Texas’ largest counties issuing stay-at-home orders

[8:40 a.m.] Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley on Tuesday ordered residents to stay in their homes as much as possible as the state grapples with the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff on Monday evening issued a “Stay Home, Work Safe” order effective 11:59 p.m. Tuesday through 11:59 p.m. April 9. The move came one day after Dallas County issued a similar order. And the Austin City Council and Travis County will team up Tuesday to issue a similar stay-at-home decree, Austin Mayor Steve Adler told The Texas Tribune on Monday. — Alex Samuels

Precautions taken to slow spread of COVID-19 could hurt rural hospitals

[5 a.m.] As hospitals increase capacity to treat a growing number of patients who may become infected with COVID-19, rural hospital administrators say financial hardships could force them to do the opposite.

The administrators say the precautions being taken, such as the cancellation of elective surgeries — which are one of the hospitals' most lucrative income streams — threaten to hasten the rate of closures.

“If we’re not able to address the short-term cash needs of rural hospitals, we’re going to see hundreds of rural hospitals close before this crisis ends,” Alan Morgan, the head of the National Rural Health Association, recently told Kaiser Health News. “This is not hyperbole.” — Edgar Walters

State numbers for positive coronavirus tests increase but lag behind other reports

[4:45 p.m.] Official numbers from the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that at least 373 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Texas. But the actual number is significantly higher.

The state’s numbers lag behind certain counties’ individual numbers. On Sunday, for instance, Gov. Greg Abbott said that there were 566 total cases in Texas, according to Johns Hopkins University. And even that number is likely insufficient. The state reported Monday that 10,055 tests had been administered. That’s about 0.03% of the population. With community spread of the virus happening, more people who have contracted the virus likely haven’t been tested.

The state tracks cases by county of residence, and some patients are treated outside of the county where they live, so today’s data includes 65 cases in which investigators are still determining the county of residence. The state health agency says that some jurisdictions are making their data public before sending it to the state and that they might be including residents of other counties in their reports. —Anna Novak

CDC gives Texas nearly $37 million for COVID-19 efforts

[4:25 p.m.] The state received $36.9 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat COVID-19, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday. Texas received one of the largest shares of CDC funding, trailing only California. The funds are an initial allotment and resulted from the first emergency coronavirus bill passed by Congress earlier this month.

The money will be split among 43 local health departments and the Texas Department of State Health Services so it can be distributed throughout the state. Funding will “preserve critical healthcare, workforce and infrastructure functions, while minimizing social and economic impact” of the pandemic in Texas, according to a press release from Abbott’s office. It will also increase Texas’ testing and reporting capacity. — Raga Justin

Gov. Greg Abbott asks Donald Trump for a disaster declaration

[3:26 p.m.] Gov. Greg Abbott has requested a major disaster declaration from President Donald Trump to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in Texas.

"I have determined that the current coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments," Abbott wrote to Trump in a letter dated Monday.

Abbott said the pandemic has already cost the state over $50 million. Hundreds of Texans have tested positive for the virus, and it has been linked to eight deaths in the state. A declaration would help free up federal assistance that could be used to address a shortage of personal protective equipment and other supplies, Abbott said. — Patrick Svitek

Waco issues ‘shelter-in-place’ order

Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver issued a “shelter-in-place” order Monday, marking the first city in Texas to do so.

Waco officials are following the lead of Dallas County, which issued a similar orderover the weekend. The order goes into effect by midnight Monday and prohibits Waco residents from leaving their houses except for “essential activities,” including trips to grocery stores, pharmacies, or health care facilities.

All businesses deemed nonessential are expected to close. Waco residents will still be allowed to leave their homes for outdoor exercise, provided they follow social distancing measures. — Raga Justin

Hidalgo County issues mandatory curfew starting Monday night

[10:26 a.m.] Hidalgo County has ordered an emergency stay-at-home curfew, starting Monday night, between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

A copy of the order, signed by County Judge Arturo Guajardo and shared on Twitter by state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, states the curfew does not apply to essential employees, like first responders, or people traveling directly to essential establishments, like grocery stores or hospitals. Local law enforcement will be authorized to enforce the curfew, violations of which are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail, according to the order.

The order came after Gov. Greg Abbott declined to order a statewide "shelter-in-place" on Sunday, but said he encouraged local leaders to take more dramatic action than he was taking. — Jolie McCullough

Here’s how to help — or to get help

As schools close and thousands of people across the country are being laid off due to the new coronavirus pandemic, many Texans are finding themselves stuck at home with no income or access to necessary resources like food or medical supplies. We’ve put together a list of organizations across the state that can help. View it here. —Megan Menchaca