Texas on Wednesday reported a third consecutive day with a record number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, as a new rise in coronavirus cases ripples across states nationwide.
The upward trend comes six weeks into Texas' reopening that began in May, which kicked off one of the fastest reboots of daily life in the U.S, and as restaurants get permission to expand their dining rooms to nearly full capacity starting Friday. While thousands of hospital beds remain available, officials are voicing concern.
Throughout the record-setting week in Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and state health officials have pointed out hotspots in rural counties with meatpacking plants and prisons but have not offered an explanation for rising caseloads elsewhere. But on Wednesday, some big city officials and health experts readily linked the worsening numbers to businesses reopening and people growing more complacent with social distancing.
"This is a concerning trend," said Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority for Austin Public Health in the Texas capital. Surrounding Travis County set a record Tuesday with 161 new cases, nearly double its previous single-day high.
The 2,153 hospitalizations in Texas on Wednesday reflects a 42 percent surge in admitted COVID-19 patients since Memorial Day, when restless beachgoers swarmed Texas' coastline and a water park near Houston opened to big crowds in defiance of Abbott's orders at the time.
Texas is one of a number of states nationwide grappling with rising virus caseloads as summer begins. In Arkansas, hospitalizations on Wednesday were up 83 percent since Memorial Day, but Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said it is still going forward with relaxing hospital restrictions next week.
Arizona and North Carolina are also being closely over its rising numbers.
On Wednesday, Abbott reiterated that he was "concerned but not alarmed" in Texas. He has not signaled any intention of putting social or business restrictions back in place and urged residents to continue wearing masks, sanitizing their hands and maintaining social distancing.
"People need to realize COVID-19 hasn't suddenly left the state of Texas. It still exists," Abbott told Lubbock television station KCBD.
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said testing and contact tracing wasn't sufficient as society began reopening.
"It was all about emphasizing opening up the economy," Hotez said. "I don't like predicting bad news and then having it to happen. There's no satisfaction in this, but this was sort of predicted and predictable."
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.