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Coronavirus in Texas: Health experts, advocates say it's time for more testing and fewer inmates in Texas prisons

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Shuttered store fronts in downtown El Paso during the the coronavirus pandemic. Emily Kinskey for The Texas Tribune

Monday's biggest developments:

  • Texas reports 31,548 cases and 867 deaths
  • Health experts, advocates say it's time for more testing and fewer Texas prison inmates

Texas reports 31,548 cases and 867 deaths

[5 a.m.] Texas reported 1,026 more cases of the new coronavirus Sunday, an increase of about 3% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 31,548. No new counties reported their first cases Sunday; over 80% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.

Harris County has reported the most cases, 6,708, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 3,899 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.

The state has reported 20 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 867 — an increase of about 2% from Saturday. Harris County reported seven additional deaths, bringing its total to 129 deaths, more than any other county.

As of Sunday, 1,540 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s a decrease of 185 patients from Saturday. At least 390,560 tests have been conducted. — Darla Cameron

Health experts say it's time for more testing and fewer Texas prison inmates

[5 a.m.] The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has tested about 1,700 symptomatic inmates for the new coronavirus — about 1% of the state’s prison population, according to department reports. More than 70% of those inmates have tested positive. At least 25 infected prisoners and staff have died. But, like in the rest of the state, the scope of the virus’ spread in prisons is still largely unknown because testing has been limited.

Epidemiologists say more testing is needed in prisons because they are incubators for disease, which can endanger, prisoners, staff and surrounding communities. “Most [prison outbreaks] have begun with introductions from staff," said Dr. Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

TDCJ’s coronavirus policies have evolved during the pandemic. Gov. Greg Abbott directed the prisons to cancel all inmate visitation, and the units increased their cleaning, among other efforts. Some lawmakers and advocates have praised TDCJ for how it has tackled a complex, ever-changing crisis. But infectious disease experts and prisoner rights advocates say much more needs to be done, starting with mass testing of inmates and reducing the overall prisoner population. — Jolie McCullough