Saturday’s biggest developments:
Texas doctors experiment with plasma transfusions
Churches taking different approaches to Easter services
More than 11,000 Texans have tested positive; new numbers expected Saturday
Texas lags the nation in coronavirus testing[11:48 a.m.] Fewer tests have been conducted for the new coronavirus in Texas per capita than every state but one, The Houston Chronicle reported on Saturday, with only 332 tests conducted per 100,000 people.
In the United States only Kansas ranks worse, at 327 tests issued per 100,000 people, according to the Chronicle, which analyzed testing data collected through Wednesday. Testing in cities across Texas have been criticized for “missteps, delays and shortages,” and the state data has lagged, including details from nursing homes.
After The Texas Tribune reported on Wednesday that COVID-19 was spreading in Texas nursing homes, officials eventually disclosed that more than 13% of Texas nursing homes have at least one resident with coronavirus.“Not fully knowing who has or had the disease both skews public health data and also hampers treatment and prevention strategies, potentially leading to a higher death count, health care experts say,” read the Chronicle’s article. — Mitchell Ferman
Texas blocked abortions during the pandemic. She was able to get one anyway.[9:45 a.m.] Heather Artrip had an abortion last Friday. The 30-year-old single mother was ready to pack up her two sons and drive to New Mexico to find a willing medical provider when she got the call from her clinic in Austin. Two days earlier, someone had called to cancel her appointment, citing the state’s ban on abortions to preserve medical resources for coronavirus patients. But this time they said they could get her a medication abortion — which involves taking pills.
Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott announced an executive order pausing all medical procedures and surgeries that aren’t urgent in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and conserve personal protective equipment. Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly said that the governor’s order should include a ban on most abortions, setting off a legal battle and a barrage of conflicting court rulings that have created confusion for clinics and women seeking to end their pregnancies.
Artrip was able to get an abortion in the midst of the legal whiplash, but abortion providers across the state are responding inconsistently, with some shutting down altogether while they await a final answer.
“This is a nightmare inside of a nightmare,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “One day patients are called back for their procedures, the next day they are canceled — all at the whim of Gov. Abbott.” — Sami Sparber
Texas doctors experimenting with plasma from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19[5 a.m.] Doctors in Texas and around the country are experimenting with a new treatment based on an old technique — injecting antibody-rich plasma from people who have recovered from the new coronavirus into people who have severe cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Antibodies are proteins in blood that fight specific bacteria and viruses.
In the absence of a novel coronavirus vaccine, doctors and scientists are looking to so-called convalescent plasma because they consider it low risk and because it has been effective during past epidemics. But they aren’t sure yet if it will be effective on COVID-19.
Two small studies found that COVID-19 patients in China improved after receiving convalescent plasma transfusions. Researchers plan to find out if that success can be replicated with COVID-19 patients in the U.S. — Clare Proctor
Ahead of Easter Sunday, churches prepare for holiday services with different approaches[5 a.m.] Christian Texans, faith leaders and local officials are preparing in myriad ways for an Easter holiday that falls in the middle of a pandemic the scale of which almost no one has encountered.
Texas churches have the governor’s blessing to hold services for the holiday thanks to Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement last week that churches are an essential service and can remain open during the pandemic — as long as they follow health guidance to keep patrons 6 feet apart.
Some churches praise Abbott’s order and are willing to change their structure according to health guidelines as long as members can still gather Sunday. Others, still worried about the growing spread of the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, are opting to continue with virtual services despite the major holiday. — Stacy Fernández and Alex Samuels
Harris County tops Texas for coronavirus cases as new numbers expected Saturday[5 a.m.] In Texas, Harris County has reported the most people with the new coronavirus cases, 3,047, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 1,432 cases. Those are according to numbers released Friday. Health officials are expected to update the count of Texans testing positive for the virus Saturday.
Already, more than 11,000 Texans have tested positive out of at least 115,918 tests conducted. More than 225 people in the state have died from COVID-19. — Anna Novak