Coronavirus in Texas: 2,000 contact tracers deployed

Thursday’s biggest developments

  • More than 140,000 Texans filed for unemployment last week
  • Austin nursing home sued by family of worker who died of COVID-19

Governor to announce more reopening plans

Gov. Greg Abbott is set to to announce another set of reopening plans on Monday.

“We’re opening Texas as fast as possible while also containing the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a Wednesday night interview with KETK.

Health experts say that even small steps toward reopening businesses will increase the number of people who become sick from the virus. The governor has allowed the reopening of a number of businesses across industries over the last two weeks, including restaurants, retailers and hair salons. Originally Abbott said bars would get the go-ahead to reopen by mid-May. He has stopped short of putting a date on their reopening, saying he needs more information from experts to figure out how to reopen them safely.

“Part of what we seek to do this coming Monday is seek to get the advice of our four-doctor medical team about safe ways that current businesses may be allowed to open up even further and safe ways that certain businesses that are not open may be allowed to open,” Abbott said in an interview Wednesday evening with WOAI. “So we are still providing information to our medial team, getting advice back from our medical team, and we will be making these decisions here in the coming days.”

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen also went on the air to defend the governor’s decision to reopen more businesses.

“If Texans follow the health guidelines of washing their hands, social distancing, wearing a face-covering when they go out in public, then we can be successful in reopening our economy, getting Texans back to work,” Bonnen said on KETK. — Stacy Fernández and Patrick Svitek

More than 140,000 Texans filed for unemployment last week

[7:45 a.m.] Last week, 141,672 Texans filed for unemployment, bringing the total number of claims to 1.9 million in the past two months.

This comes as state and local orders aiming to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic have shuttered stores and led to massive layoffs and furloughs. And likely thousands more are still struggling to apply, running into website crashes and busy phone lines. Nationwide, just shy of 3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week.

Last week’s claims are down more than 40% from the week ending May 2, when more than 240,000 Texans filed for unemployment.

The Texas Workforce Commission has paid out over $5.2 billion in benefits, using state and federal funding, Cisco Gamez, a spokesperson for the commission, said at a Wednesday media briefing. — Clare Proctor

Texas has deployed 2,000 contact tracers, plans to double that

[5 a.m.] State officials say they have about half of the contact tracers they need to spot and contain new cases of COVID-19, the San Antonio Express-News reported. An aide to Gov. Greg Abbott told the paper that 2,000 tracers have been deployed. That’s half of the 4,000 the governor wants in place by the end of the month.

Contact tracers are public health workers who help identify and notify everyone a COVID-19 patient has had close contact with while he or she has been infectious. — Naomi Andu

Austin nursing home sued by family of worker who died of COVID-19

[5 a.m.] The family of an Austin nursing home worker who died of coronavirus last month is suing the facility and its operators, saying they didn’t take appropriate steps to prevent an outbreak that has killed 18 patients and infected many more, the Austin American-Statesman reported. — Texas Tribune staff

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