June 25 (UPI) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott halted all elected medical procedures and paused further business reopenings Thursday, one day after the state recorded a 24-hour high for new coronavirus cases.
Texas is one of several states experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as the United States begins to loosen restrictions on non-essential businesses and workers. The state reported 5,551 new infections Wednesday, a record.
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the state increased for the 13th-straight day Wednesday, with 4,389 patients seeking treatment statewide. That number increased by nearly 300 from the day before and tripled since Memorial Day.
“As we experience an increase in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families,” Abbott said in a statement Thursday.
“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses.”
Texas never declared a statewide stay-at-home order like New York and Michigan. Instead, Abbott left it to individual counties to have control over certain restrictions on non-essential businesses and activities.
The governor, did, however, begin issuing statewide orders to reopen the economy in late April, superseding local orders.
Initially reluctant to allow cities and counties to require residents to wear face coverings, Abbott gave them permission last week and amid record increases this week began to encourage Texans to wear them.
“I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly and socially distancing from others,” he said Thursday.
Abbott’s orders come the same day that U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials warned the true number of coronavirus cases in the country could be 10 times higher than reported.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, told reporters that more than 20 million may have been infected with the virus. According to Johns Hopkins University, the United States leads the world in both coronavirus infections and deaths at 2.4 million confirmed cases and more than 122,000 fatalities.
“Our best estimate right now is that for every case that’s reported, there actually are 10 other infections,” he said.
The CDC on Wednesday predicted that the U.S. death toll from the pandemic will reach up to 150,000 by July 18.
The virus first emerged late December in the central Chinese city of Wuhan with the United States diagnosing its first cases in mid-January.
Comprising 20 individual national forecasts, the ensemble prediction shows new deaths reported over the next four weeks will likely surpass the number reported over the previous month in 13 states, including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
“For other states, the number of new deaths is expected to be similar to the number seen in the previous four weeks or to decrease slightly,” the federal agency said.
The prediction was announced on the same day the CDC said there were at least 34,313 new COVID-19 cases recorded in the previous 24 hours — the country’s third-highest single-day total. However, Johns Hopkins had it at more than 34,700, placing it second to only April 24 when more than 36,400 cases were recorded.
The health departments of California, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina said Wednesday that they each recorded single-day highs over the previous 24 hours. Meanwhile, more than two dozen states are experiencing an upward trend in new infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
California, which has the second-highest number of infections at 190,222, reported 7,149 new cases over Tuesday, which shattered its previous record of more than 5,500 set the day prior.
In Florida, health officials registered 5,508 new infections over the previous 24 hours, beating its record of 4,049 cases reported Friday. The state now has 109,014 cases.
Oklahoma also reported a 24-hour high of 482 new cases, lifting its total to 11,510. And South Carolina announced 1,291 new cases over Tuesday for a total of 27,842.