As the threat of COVID-19 sweeps across the state, some Texas counties and cities are taking measures to protect their residents.
Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver issued a shelter-in-place order Monday, making it the first city in Texas to do so.
Waco officials are following the lead of Dallas County, which issued a similar order over the weekend. The order was scheduled to go into effect 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.
In Hidalgo County, officials ordered an emergency stay-at-home curfew that occurs between 10 p.m. and lasts to 5 a.m. The curfew began Monday night.
According to MySanAntonio.com, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Judge Nelson Wolff announced a stay-at-home order to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in San Antonio and Bexar County during a news conference Monday evening.
In Harris County, officials announced an online COVID-19 screening tool for residents to self-assess their symptoms if they think they have the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The tool, available at ReadyHarris.org, will consist of an online questionnaire. To move on to the second phase of screening, a phone call with a medical professional, people must be deemed at risk.
The screening will determine who should show up at a testing site.
During a Monday press conference, Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health, said the tool should allay common fears as the coronavirus continues to spread.
“We know there are a lot of concerns in our community, with people worrying if symptoms require evaluation or testing,” Shah said. “The vast majority of people who complete this screening will be reassured that they don’t need testing or evaluation at this time.”
Meanwhile, the Texas Hospital Association, the leading trade association that represents most Texas hospitals is calling for increased shelter-in-place restrictions across the state, asking their residents to remain in their homes as much as possible.
Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday that a statewide order to shelter in place is not yet necessary, but said local government officials are welcome to impose stronger measures than the state.
“Given the projections and gravity of the situation, Texas hospitals support strong shelter-in-place provisions, and the Texas Hospital Association is urging all Texas communities to quickly implement these strict provisions to minimize the spread and protect our health care workers,” the trade group said in a memo. The Dallas Morning News posted the letter online.
The association further echoed concerns about medical protective equipment shortages.
“Texas hospitals continue to have concerns about the availability of personal protective equipment and other significant challenges as we continue to respond to COVID-19,” the memo added. “Texas hospitals understand that the current executive orders are in place, and there is a need for more time and information to determine whether additional steps need to be taken.”
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, 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.
Texas received $36.9 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat COVID-19, 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 health care, 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.