Coronavirus in Texas: State Supreme Court justice tests positive for coronavirus

Texas Tribune Staff

Thursday’s biggest developments:

Dallas County judge expresses measured optimism as case numbers show improvement
134,381 Texans filed for unemployment last week
Houston-area water park set to open, despite orders

Texas Supreme Court justice tests positive for coronavirus

[11:15 a.m.] Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann is the first high-ranking state official with a known case of COVID-19, The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday.

Lehrmann and her husband, Greg, who also tested positive for the virus, got tested at one of Austin’s drive-thru testing centers last week after experiencing fevers and body aches, the News reports.

Lehrmann called her infection “perplexing” since she and her husband “strictly adhered” to stay-at-home orders since early March. The pair have been working from home and wearing masks and gloves when they venture out to the grocery store.

“We were just extremely careful — and then we get it,” Lehrmann told the News. “How in the world would that happen? We have no idea. All I know is it must be very contagious.” — Stacy Fernández

Houston-area water park set to open, despite orders

[9:55 a.m.] A Houston-area water park said it will defy Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders and reopen Saturday for Memorial Day weekend, the Houston Chronicle reported.

While indoor and outdoor pools can operate at 25% occupancy, the governor’s directives specifically say people should continue to avoid interactive amusement venues like water parks.

The Big Rivers Waterpark in New Caney will host up to 2,020 people daily through May. That’s almost 20% of its maximum capacity, said Monty Galland, CEO and developer for the park’s parent company, in a Facebook video.

“The purpose of that is to make sure it’s comfortable and everybody has plenty of space to practice social distancing,” Galland said.

Abbott has said the state is exploring ways to safely reopen amusement parks, specifically looking at how Disney is opening up its parks. Still, the governor has not provided a timeline yet for when such venues could reopen in Texas. — Stacy Fernández and Patrick Svitek

134,381 Texans filed for unemployment last week

[7:35 a.m.] Another 134,381 Texans filed for unemployment last week. Since the week ending March 14, just shy of 2.1 million Texans have filed for benefits.

This week’s claims are down 5.1% from the week ending May 9, when just over 140,000 Texans filed for unemployment. Across the nation, 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week.

On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the latest phase of reopening the state’s economy. Child care centers were allowed to open Monday, and bars and bowling alleys — among other select businesses — are permitted to open their doors starting Friday.

But as some Texans return to work, it’ll likely take some time before the economy rebounds. Not all business owners are opting to reopen their doors, and many customers remain hesitant over whether it’s safe to return to restaurants, retail stores and other businesses.

The Texas Workforce Commission, which handles the state’s unemployment claims, voted Tuesday to phase out child care subsidies for low-income and essential workers. They will continue making payments for up to three months, but these workers can no longer apply to the subsidy program. — Clare Proctor

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins sees positive signs in data, but worries about a resurgence

[5 a.m.] As Texas continues to reopen its economy, Dallas County has seen its hospitalization and new positive test numbers stay relatively steady, County Judge Clay Jenkins told The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the county began releasing the number of emergency room visits in local hospitals by people suspected to have COVID-19. The first day’s number was 409. And the trend line for that statistic has stayed relatively stable for at least the past two weeks, the newspaper reported. Similarly, the county reported 185 new cases Wednesday, down 40 from the day before and part of what the Morning News described as a continued decline.

“It’ll be a kind of happy story this week as the numbers seem to be going our way,” Jenkins told the newspaper in a meeting with its editorial board.

Jenkins and local officials had expressed a desire to keep the economy more closed until a steady decline in new cases occurred over at least two weeks. But the lack of an immediate spike has made him willing to reconsider his assumptions if current trends continue for a couple of weeks, he told the paper.

“We’re not stuck on some arbitrary political solution or static thing,” Jenkins said. “We’re listening to what the science tells us — they’re looking at a novel virus every day and reevaluating.”

But, Jenkins told the paper, he’s still worried about a potential resurgence in new cases this summer. — Matthew Watkins

Texas reports 51,323 cases and 1,419 deaths

[4:30 p.m. Wednesday] Texas reported 1,411 more cases of the new coronavirus Wednesday, an increase of about 3% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 51,323. Hall County reported its first case Wednesday; over 85% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.

Harris County has reported the most cases, 9,859, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 7,904 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.

The state has reported 50 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 1,419 — an increase of about 4% from Tuesday. Harris County reported two additional deaths, bringing its total to 207 deaths, more than any other county.

As of Wednesday, 1,791 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s an increase of 59 patients from Tuesday. At least 770,241 tests have been conducted. — Chris Essig

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