Texas hit a third straight day of more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases Saturday as the state charged into its first weekend of re-opening the economy with residents allowed to go back to malls, restaurants, movie theaters and retail stores in limited numbers.
State health officials reported 1,293 new cases, the second-highest single-day infection rate, marking the first time the Texas has recorded more than 1,000 three days in a row.
Officials also reported 31 new deaths, the first time Texas has surpassed 30 on four consecutive days, although fatalities declined for a second consecutive day after a peak of 50 deaths on Friday.
The figures come just as Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide "stay at home" order for nearly 30 million people expired Friday and shoppers began to return to stores and restaurants.
Abbott's office has said the number of diagnosed cases is expected to increase as the state ramps up testing. With 29,074 new tests reported Saturday, the state is close to the 30,000 a day Abbott said is needed to keep tabs on the spread of the virus.
Counties with fewer than five active cases of COVID-19 can reopen businesses at 50% capacity, but the majority of Texans live in places where capacity for now is limited to 25%. Abbott wants to further relax restrictions, including letting hair salons and gyms reopen, with a goal of mid-May, but health experts have expressed concerns over moving too fast.
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.