Hard-hit Texas border counties urge residents to stay home

A vendor wearing a mask to protect against COVID-19 arranges merchandise at his business in San Antonio, Monday, July 20, 2020. Cases of COVID-19 continue to spike in Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — While some big cities in Texas are reporting signs that an alarming surge in cases of the coronavirus may be leveling off, officials in counties along the border with Mexico said Tuesday that the outlook there remains bleak.

Dallas County officials said the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients dropped below 1,000 on Tuesday for the first time in more than two weeks, and officials in Houston are seeing signs of optimism. But along the border in Starr County, Judge Eloy Vera said “we’re very close to losing the situation” and plans to issue voluntary stay-at-home recommendations this week.

He said it would be similar to one issued Monday in Hidalgo County, which set a curfew and recommends that all nonessential businesses cease any activity that can’t be provided at curbside or by takeout. The orders, however, are not enforceable under Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s past mandates that do not allow local officials to set their own stay-at-home restrictions.

Texas on Tuesday reported more than 9,300 confirmed new cases and 131 deaths, the state’s second deadliest day of the pandemic. The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

Meanwhile, Texas is pressing ahead with plans for high school football this fall. The University Interscholastic League, which governs high school sports in Texas, released guidelines that push back the start of the football season for the largest schools into late September. Attendance will be limited and masks will be required.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.