One Year Ago DSHS Confirmed the First COVID-19 Death of a Texas Resident

March 17 marks the date of the first lab-confirmed COVID-19 death in Texas

Texas DSHS to host a media briefing.
NBC 5 News

One year ago, the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed the first death of a Texas resident who tested positive for COVID-19.

On March 17, 2020, DSHS announced the death of a man in his 90s who was a resident of Matagorda County and had been hospitalized, marking the first lab-confirmed COVID-19 death of a Texas resident.

"We are deeply saddened today to learn that a fellow Texan has died from COVID-19," Gov. Greg Abbott said at the time. "The First Lady and I send our deepest condolences and prayers to the family and loved ones during their time of mourning. The State of Texas remains vigilant in our efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and will continue to do all we can to protect our most vulnerable populations and ensure that Texans have access to testing and treatment resources."

Two days later, on March 19, DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt declared a Public Health Disaster for Texas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"A death in Texas shows the gravity of the situation," Hellerstedt said in 2020. "It's critically important for us all to take actions that will help protect our most vulnerable citizens. By working together, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and help ensure the health care system will be able to care for those who need it most."

DSHS reminded people who are 65 or older or who have an underlying health condition like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer that they have a higher risk of developing severe disease if they do get COVID-19.

The department also said that the safest thing for those with health conditions to do during an outbreak is to stay home as much as possible and minimize close contact with other people.

One year later, the state count of new COVID-19 daily cases is back above 4,000, with 4,838 new confirmed and probable cases reported Tuesday, state health officials said.

According to Johns Hopkins University researchers, the rolling average of new cases reported in Texas in the past two weeks has dropped by 3,078 per day, a 39.7% decrease.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said that Texas has recorded 2,726,194 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic.

The 130 new COVID-19 deaths in Texas reported Tuesday push the state's pandemic death toll to 46,650, the third-largest in the nation, Johns Hopkins researchers said.

According to an executive order by Governor Greg Abbott on March 1, all Texas businesses are allowed to open to 100% capacity.

Abbott also ended the statewide mask mandate, but he strongly encouraged people to continue wearing face coverings in public.

COVID-19 vaccination is underway in Texas, though the vaccine is currently only being administered to those who are part of Phase 1A, 1B and 1C, as outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Those in Phase 1A are frontline health care workers or residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B includes those who are over the age of 65, or those over the age of 16 with a chronic medical condition that puts them at risk for severe illness.

On March 3, vaccine availability was expanded to include school and child care workers. On March 15, vaccine eligibility was expanded to include Phase 1C, which includes anyone over the age of 50.

Groups that will be in Phase 2 and Phase 3 are currently under consideration by state health officials.

President Biden has said the vaccine should be available to all Americans by May 1.

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