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Coronavirus in Texas 3/31: 28 people in Austin test positive after spring break trip

The emergency drop-off at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune)
The emergency drop-off at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune)

Tuesday’s biggest developments

  • Military to stop disclosing number of cases at facilities
  • 28 people in Austin test positive after spring break trip
  • Second death at Dallas senior-living facility

28 people in Austin test positive after spring break trip

[12:17 p.m.] Austin Public Health reported that 28 young adults coming back from a spring break trip in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, have tested positive for COVID-19 and that dozens more are under a public health investigation. KXAN reported that many of them are UT-Austin students.

According to a press release, a group of approximately 70 people departed to Mexico a week and a half ago on a charter flight. Some of them returned in commercial flights, and 28 people in the group have tested positive so far. Four of the confirmed cases haven’t shown symptoms, and all of them are self-isolating, according to authorities. At the time, Mexico was not under a federal travel advisory, but Austin Public Health had indicated that all nonessential international travel should be avoided, following the CDC recommendations.

Public Health data shows that nearly half of those testing positive for COVID-19 in Travis County are between the ages of 20 and 40.—Juan Pablo Garnham

Dallas mayor urges people to avoid overcrowding of parks

[11:32 a.m.] Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson urged people to keep a safe distance from one another in the city’s trails and parks. This weekend, two of the most popular green spaces in Dallas — the Katy Trail and White Rock Lake — experienced severe overcrowding, leading to criticism from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

“I'm asking our residents to please keep your distance and to help us keep the public safe and to keep the city open air amenities open for as long as they can,” the mayor said in a news conference Tuesday.

City Manager T.J. Broadnax added that the city could institute citations and fines for up to $2,000 for people and businesses defying current orders. The city’s Department of Transportation is also analyzing the potential closure of car traffic on specific streets to alleviate overcrowding of the city’s parks, a practice that has proved successful in many cities around the world.

In Tuesday's news conference, Johnson also addressed the idea of taking stronger actions against evictions, proposed by council member Adam Bazaldua. Johnson said that this has to be discussed with the city’s COVID-19 committee.

“We need this committee to vet this idea before we act on it. It has significant legal ramifications, and we cannot afford to rush into something that’s this far reaching,” Johnson said.

Also at the news conference, the Office of Emergency Management said that the medical community is meeting to assess exactly what the city will need from the announced pop-up hospital in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and that the facility will be operated by 225 members of the Navy’s Medical Unit. —Juan Pablo Garnham

Military to stop disclosing number of cases at facilities

The U.S. military will stop reporting the number of COVID-19 cases on its bases and other command stations, multiple news outlets reported Monday.

The directive from the Pentagon comes as the number of cases linked to the military passed 1,000, ABC and CNN reported. The Pentagon cited security concerns for the order.

“We will not report the aggregate number of individual service member cases at individual unit, base or Combatant Commands. We will continue to do our best to balance transparency in this crisis with operational security," Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in a statement.

The order includes El Paso’s Fort Bliss, which had reported seven cases as of Monday. The San Antonio Express-News reported that as of Friday, 28 “military personnel, dependents and retirees had tested positive, but that information was later removed.

“Cover-up is the worst damn thing you can do when you’re having [the] serious issue that we’re having today with COVID-19,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said, according to the SAEN.

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services the agency had a few reports from bases early on but “bases began testing on their own and we have not been asked for further assistance.” — Julián Aguilar

Second death at Dallas senior-living facility

[8:54 a.m.] A second COVID-19 death has been reported at the Edgemere senior-living facility in North Dallas. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Thursday evening at a news conference. Jenkins added that there’s also 10 new cases of the disease at the Skyline Nursing Center, in the south of the city, and another case at the Reserve, a center in Richardson.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Jenkins on Sunday suggested that people should consider bringing loved ones home from these facilities, but he later clarified that is wasn’t an order, but a recommendation for those who have the resources to do so. —Juan Pablo Garnham