July 1, 2020
Locals Shutting Texas Down for Fourth of July
as Virus Torches Coast and Candidate Infected
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
The coronavirus continued to make high-ranking Texas officials look clueless on Wednesday when local leaders started slapping restrictions on July 4th festivities that they hadn't already cancelled as the count of new cases soared like a bottle rocket with more than 8,000 more people infected than the day before.
As the Texas hospital crisis intensifed in a state that's the epicenter of the second outbreak, a Republican congressional runoff candidate from Waco revealed that she'd tested positive for COVID-19 after ignoring social distancing requirements during campaign appearances in recent weeks.
Congressional District 13 hopeful Renee Swann confirmed on social media on Wednesday that she and her husband had tested positive for the coronavirus. A substantial underdog in a second round bout with former congressional Republican Pete Sessions, Swann said that she was asymptomatic and would be back on the campaign trail for the final days before the July 14 runoff election after a 10-day quarantine. Swann will be hoping to score a sufficient number of sympathy votes to propel her from behind to an overtime victory in two weeks.
But the most grim new daily development came when the COVID-19 death toll soared to its highest point in Texas since May 14 after 57 people died from infections around the state in the past 24 hours. Texas fell one death short of the old record less than 24 hours after Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick had bragged on national television about the state recording a mere 57 coronavirus fatalities in the past three days combined.
Patrick had depicted Dr. Anthony Fauci as modern-day snake oil in a Fox News interview on Tuesday night amid the assertion that the nation's leading authority on infectuous diseases had been wrong 100 percent of the time in a statement that the lieutenant governor didn't try to substantiate because it would be impossible to do so.
Patrick also declared that Texas had demonstrated that lockdowns don't work as though he didn't realize that the death and cases counts here would have been astronomically higher if local leaders hadn't ordered people to stay at home in March before Governor Greg Abbott extended the mandates statewide at the start of April. Patrick also failed to recognize that the more second surge had been a direct product of a fast-track reopening for which he tried to take co-credit even though it's been directed exclusively by the governor.
That could explain why local officials collective rejected the lieutenant governor's bizarre advice and rant as mayors and county judges moved swiftly to shut down some Fourth of July celebrations while imposing strict regulations on the limited number will be allowed to take place.
Texas appeared to be reclosing even faster than Abbott had tried to bring the economy back to life in a move that backfired after the governor failed to heed Fauci's warnings.
Galveston capped off a string of beach shutterings up and down the Texas coast with an executive order on Wednesday that prohibits anyone from going on the beaches or the seawall there from 5 a.m. on Friday until midnight on Monday. Galveston shut down the beaches in advance of the island town's biggest perennial attraction as a place that's rich in history and part of the Houston metropolitan area.
"At this time, based on the current health situation and the guidance of medical professionals, I do not feel it is prudent or responsible to have thousands of visitors descending on Galveston beaches," Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough said. "Galveston has and always will be a welcoming destination, but the ongoing public health crisis demands our attention and response. We have to prioritize health and safety."
Yarbrough said the highly-difficult decision was prompted in part by the Texas Medical Center's implementation of emergency surge plans with a rapidly diminishing supply of intensive care beds in hospitals that have been flooded with coronavirus patients
Hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley and the Corpus Christi are running out of ICU beds as well and could be feel compelled to follow Galveston's lead on the holiday beach closure despite tentative plans to allow heavily regulated beach festivities this weekend.
The number of confirmed virus cases in Galveston County has vaulted a disturbing 61 percent in the past week with 231 new infections recorded on Wednesday. Hidalgo County - a Rio Grande Valley destination that's home to the popular resort community South Padre Island - has recorded an 87 percent increasei in coronavirus cases in the past seven days.
But the Corpus Christi that appeared to take a light hit in the pandemic's initial outbreak has been the hottest spot in Texas by far during the second surge with Nueces County reporting a record 274 cases today to cap off a week in which the infection count skyrocketed 194 percent.
Montgomery County - the most heavily Republican major population center in Texas - geared for the upcoming summer holiday with a virus count that cracked three-digits for the first time with 105 more cases at the opposite end of the Houston area from Galveston.
The virus destroyed daily records on the Wednesday in the San Antonio and Fort Worth area with 1,268 and 605 new cases in Bexar and Tarrant counties respectively.
Lubbock, Wichita, Bell and Comal counties recorded their highest daily case counts while records fell in Matagorda and Victoria counties on or near the Gulf Coast. Maverick County reported 123 new cases - a record that was more than three times the amount of a mark of 39 that had been set two weeks ago.
more to come ...