"Coronavirus updates in Texas: State National Guard to be activated; Austin shutters bars, restaurants" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Tuesday's biggest developments:
- Texas has 76 cases; state reports its first coronavirus-related death
- Texas National Guard to be activated to respond to outbreak
- Austin closes bars, restaurants
- Dallas County identifies more cases related to community spread
- Community spread found in Webb, Tarrant counties
Texas has 76 cases; state reports its first coronavirus-related death
[1:15 p.m.] The current COVID-19 total for the state is 76 cases as of noon Tuesday. Webb and Tarrant counties are now reporting community spread, following Dallas, Brazoria, Matagorda and Montgomery. In total, 19 counties — and Lackland Air Force Base — are reporting at least one coronavirus case. And the state reported its first coronavirus-related death, an elderly patient in Matagorda County, late Monday night. — Raga Justin
Texas National Guard to be activated to respond to outbreak
[12:38 p.m.] Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that the Texas National Guard will be activated in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the state, which had at least 69 positive cases as of Tuesday morning. While there is no need to deploy them yet, he said, Guard members will be standing ready.
First responders and health care workers will be excluded from the activation, Abbott added.
In total, 1,264 Texans have been tested for COVID-19 so far, Abbott said. That's a significant jump from the roughly 400 people in total the state reported Monday. By the end of the week, he expects the state to be able to test 10,000 people weekly. — Patrick Svitek
Austin closes bars, restaurants
[12:30 p.m.] The city of Austin shuttered bars and restaurants in the state’s capital Tuesday on the heels of similar shutdowns in Dallas and Houston.
The partial shutdown aims to halt the spread of the new coronavirus. It is the latest blow to the state capital's economy, which is still reeling from the aftershocks of canceling South by Southwest, an annual weeklong festival and a staple for Austin. The move also limits gatherings of more than 10 people. — Raga Justin
Banks to temporarily limit access to lobbies
[12:01 p.m.] Following the lead of other industries implementing social distancing policies recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas-chartered banks will temporarily limit access to their lobbies and to tellers. Drive-through lanes and ATMs are expected to remain open, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
Texas Department of Banking Commissioner Charles G. Cooper said state banks “will take the necessary measures to continue meeting the financial needs of their customers and those affected, while protecting the health of their employees,” according to the Express-News.
The Texas Financial Code gives Cooper the authority to allow banking institutions to limit physical access in times of emergency, and Cooper’s decision came after Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday declared a disaster declaration in Texas. — Mitchell Ferman
More cases related to community spread in Dallas County
[11:45 a.m.] The number of coronavirus cases tied to community spread in Dallas County is continuing to climb.
Nine more people in the county have tested positive for the new coronavirus. One patient had traveled abroad. Three patients are "close contacts" of a previously confirmed patient. And five patients were likely infected through community spread.
Five of the new patients are hospitalized, including three in critical care units. The patients range in age from two women in their 20s to one woman in her 70s.
As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, 24 Dallas County residents have tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to the Dallas County Health and Human Services website. — Alexa Ura
Community spread of coronavirus reported in two more Texas counties
[8:50 a.m] The novel coronavirus appears to have begun spreading through the community in at least two more Texas counties: Webb, along the U.S.-Mexico border, and Tarrant, in North Texas.
Laredo has its first case, an individual who has not traveled to any affected areas recently and is considered a case of community transmission, according to local reports. And Tarrant County declared its sixth positive COVID-19 case, a Grand Prairie resident who "contracted the virus in Tarrant County with no known exposure to a confirmed case and no recent travel history," according to local officials. — Emma Platoff
Austin mayor in favor of closing bars and restaurant dining rooms
[Editor's note: The press conference originally scheduled for 11 a.m. was rescheduled to noon.]
[5 a.m.] Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt could decide the fate of area bars and restaurants Tuesday. Officials in Dallas and Harris County shuttered bars and clubs and prohibited restaurants from offering in-person dining Monday. Shortly after, Adler tweeted that he backs those moves and would make an announcement with Eckhardt at noon Tuesday. As officials continue tightening measures to slow the new coronavirus' spread, many Texans' job security is being wiped out.
Texas appears to lag behind other states in testing for new coronavirus
[5 a.m.] So far, public and federal labs have tested only 439 people in Texas for the new coronavirus, according to figures released late Monday by the Texas Department of State Health Services. That does not include “hundreds” more tests conducted by private labs, officials said. That presumably leaves the number of Texas tests somewhere north of 700 people, but The Texas Tribune could not pin down officials on a precise count.
But figures provided by DSHS, together with statistics gathered by The COVID Tracking Project, appear to put Texas, the second most populous state, toward the bottom of the country's top five states, depending on which figures for Texas are used. As of late Monday, California had tested at least 8,300 people; New York had tested 7,200; Florida had tested 1,300; and Illinois had tested 1,025, figures show.
Where Texas ultimately lands on the testing spectrum won’t be clear until the dust settles a bit on all the fast-moving coronavirus developments and the reporting of data from states improves. Nationwide, the Trump administration said, almost 2 million tests would be available to some 2,000 labs by the end of this week.
Disclosure: Steve Adler, a former Texas Tribune board chairman, and SXSW have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/03/17/coronavirus-updates-texas-austin-leaders-bar-restaurant-closures/.
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