Coronavirus in Texas: Most state parks reopen Monday in first phase of broader loosening of restrictions

Coronavirus in Texas: Most state parks reopen Monday in first phase of broader loosening of restrictions

Caprock Canyons State Park in Briscoe County. All state parks had been closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, but they are reopening Monday.
Caprock Canyons State Park in Briscoe County. All state parks had been closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, but they are reopening Monday.
David Ingram for The Texas Tribune

Monday’s biggest developments

  • State parks are reopening Monday
  • U.S. and Mexico extend restrictions on nonessential travel

Texas reports 19,458 cases and 495 deaths

[12:30 p.m.] Texas reported 535 more cases of the new coronavirus Monday, an increase of about 3% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 19,458. Scurry County reported its first case Monday; three quarters of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case.

Harris County has reported the most cases, 4,823, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 2,428 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.

The state has reported 18 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 495 — an increase of about 4% from Sunday. Harris County reported four additional deaths, bringing its total to 75 deaths, more than any other county.

As of Monday, 1,411 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s a decrease of 60 patients from Sunday. At least 190,394 tests have been conducted. — Anna Novak

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro calls on small business loans to pass through nonprofits

[11:30 a.m.] U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jovita Carranza, administrator of the Small Business Administration, calling on the department to designate billions of dollars to local nonprofits in the next round of federal support to small businesses.

Known as Community Development Financial Institutions, these groups support small business owners who did not have strong enough relationships with banks in order to land funding in the first pass of forgivable federal loans in the Paycheck Protection Program that legislators intended to keep employees on company payrolls.

“It is essential that upcoming legislation automatically authorize certified CDFIs as lenders for PPP and include a set aside of at least $65 billion to be channeled through these CDFIs,” Castro wrote. “These institutions play a leading role in serving farmers, as well as veteran, family, women, and minority-owned small businesses in rural, urban and suburban communities.

“Latino businesses commonly bank with smaller financial institutions versus larger banks who are prioritizing businesses that already bank with them.”

Congress may return to Washington this week to pass a new round of federal aid. — Abby Livingston

U.S. and Mexico extend restrictions on nonessential travel

[10:12 a.m.] The United States and Mexico are extending travel restrictions on the southern border for at least 30 more days, the Trump administration announced Monday.

The extension means that most nonessential travel will be restricted from both countries in the continued effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The same restrictions are also in place on the northern border.

Essential travel includes crossing the border for medical or educational travel, emergency response and “lawful cross-border trade,” according to Department of Homeland Security guidelines announced last month.

Allowing trade to continue is crucial to Texas as the state’s economy continues to slide because of the pandemic. Billions of dollars in two-way trade pass through both countries every week, with the bulk coming through the Laredo and El Paso customs districts.

Over the last month, Mexico has also increased its stay-at-home orders in that country and has closed large parts of the country. — Julián Aguilar

State parks reopening are the first phase of Greg Abbott’s plans to restart the Texas economy

[6 a.m.] Most of Texas’ state parks are reopening Monday, almost two weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered them all closed to fight the spread of the new coronavirus.

Texans may visit the parks, but are required to follow strict social distancing rules. Visitors must wear face coverings, maintain a 6-foot distance from people in other parties and avoid gatherings of more than five. There are some exceptions, however. Franklin Mountains and Hueco Tanks state parks in El Paso remain closed. State and local officials remain concerned about the fast spread of the virus in El Paso.

Abbott ordered all state parks closed on April 7 to fight the spread of the virus. The decision to reopen them is the first step in what Abbott has described as a phased plan to reopen the Texas economy. On Tuesday night, hospitals will be allowed to restart some elective surgeries, as long as those surgeries don’t deplete the hospitals’ supplies of personal protective equipment and allow the facilities to keep at least 25% of their capacity available for the treatment of patients with COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. And on Friday non-essential retail stores will be allowed offer delivery or curbside pickup.

Abbott will announce other reopenings April 27. — Matthew Watkins

Source: Texas Tribune