AUSTIN, Texas – Texas saw its deadliest COVID-19 day of the coronavirus pandemic so far, with state officials reporting 58 deaths during a time span between Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, according to state tabulations.
In Corpus Christi, 63 workers of the 747 employees, contractors and vendors at the STX Beef processing plant tested positive for COVID-19, Nueces County health officials said.
Also, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling that, for now, Texas does not have provide inmates at one prison with hand sanitizer, masks and unrestricted access to soap amid the coronavirus pandemic. The high court’s decision upheld an appeals court ruling that had put a previous ruling on hold.
In Houston, meanwhile, a $15 million program that was created to help residents who have been hurt economically by the coronavirus and are struggling to pay their rent ran out of money within 90 minutes after applications were accepted online.
COVID-19'S DEADLIEST DAY
The Texas Department of State Health Services reports the number of deaths linked to COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, reached 1,216 Thursday, up from 1,158 Wednesday. State figures also show 116 COVID-related deaths over the past three days.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases reported to the state rose by at least 1,800 in one day to almost 44,000 on Thursday. However, the true number is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
The biggest jump in the number of cases reported Thursday came in Dallas County, where 243 new cases were reported, bringing its total to 6,602. That was still second to Harris County, where 205 new cases reported Thursday brought its total to 8,621. The biggest increase in COVID-19-related deaths was reported in El Paso County, which reported eight new deaths on Thursday. The highest death toll remained in Harris County, where five new deaths reported Thursday brought its total to 188.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
63 WORKERS AT SOUTH TEXAS MEAT PLANT TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
The 747 workers at the STX Beef plant were tested for COVID-19 from Saturday through Wednesday, Nueces County Health Director Annette Rodriguez said. No evidence was found of food or food packaging being associated with coronavirus transmission, she said, and there have been no reports of meat contamination.
In a statement, STX Beef has said it is implementing extra safety precautions, including face masks, face shields, social distancing measures in break rooms and other safety measures.
On Wednesday, a JBS USA meatpacking plant in the Texas Panhandle accepted the state’s offer to test employees for the coronavirus as officials try to contain a cluster of infections connected to the facility. Hundreds of cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the Moore County plant near Amarillo, and Gov. Greg Abbott has singled out the county as an area of concern.
Outbreaks have hit meat plants across the country. President Donald Trump has ordered them to remain open, but Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called the plants among “the most dangerous places there are right now.”
HIGH COURT LETS STAND APPEALS COURT STAY OF INMATE COVID-19 RELIEF
Justice Samuel Alito's decision Thursday let stand a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that held up a lower-court order that Texas must take additional measures to protect the health of inmates at a prison that houses mostly older and infirm men.
The class-action suit was brought by two men who contend conditions at the Pack Unit, near Navasota, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Houston, violate their constitutional rights.
After weeks of litigation and the death of one Pack Unit prisoner who had COVID-19, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison had ordered Texas to take a number of additional steps to protect inmates there from the virus. He wrote the failure to do so showed “deliberate indifference.”
RENT-ASSISTANCE PROGRAM RUNS DRY
In Houston, nearly 12,000 renters applied for the rent-assistance program on Wednesday. The program, to be paid for by federal funding from the CARES Act, was expected to help about 7,000 households.
“I knew going into it, that the need would be greater than the amount provided. That is why last week I sent a letter urging the federal leaders to commit at least another $100 billion to rent relief and $75 billion to homeowners being foreclosed,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We’re hoping that Congress will do something.”
The program was set up to provide qualified low-to-moderate income Houston residents up to $1,056 in rental assistance for each of the months of April and May.
Houston joins other cities in Texas, including Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, with similar rent assistance programs.