EAST TEXAS, (KSLA) - The massive spike in novel coronavirus cases across Texas prompted Governor Greg Abbott to put reopening plans across the state on hold.
The state set a record for most new cases for its third day in a row. There were almost 6,000 new positive tests reported.
Perhaps the more important number, however, are the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in Texas. That number has increased by two.
Still, Governor Abbott decided to stop elective surgeries in four counties including Dallas, Bexar, Harris and Travis.
However, Abbott has resisted calls to make wearing face masks mandatory statewide.
Service workers are not even required by the state of Texas to wear masks while on the job.
Even though more and more counties are forcing a mask mandate, in most of Texas it is up to the individual to decide.
It seems everywhere you turn in east Texas you see lots of people wearing masks - and lots of people not doing so.
With mask wearing and social distancing being proven ways to lower COVID-19 infection rates, there’s renewed focus on those measures as Texas coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Researchers led by a professor from Texas A&M University, just released results this month from a study which found not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person’s chances of being infected by the COVID-19 virus.
You won’t find any argument from many east Texas residents, like Raymond Fogg, who we met outside of a coffee shop in Marshall.
Fogg says Texas leaders were determined to reopen the economy as quickly as possible.
“I think they started too early. A lot of them made it political about states’ rights, their rights under the amendment, as opposed to dealing with that it’s a public health issue.”
The city of Marshall has not heard from state leaders about Governor Abbott’s announcement of a pause at Phase III in further reopening the state’s economy.
While the city of Marshall has yet to hear from state officials about Governor Abbott’s announcement, one that pauses implementing Phase III, the city’s communications coordinator, Stormy Nickerson, confirmed that they have indeed heard from the state this week.
“We have gotten directives. They have revised the governor’s executive order, GA-26, and ask that the cities reevaluate group gatherings,” said Nickerson.
Nickerson tells us Governor Abbott’s original executive order allowed group gatherings under 500 people. Howeverk, the new order issued Tuesday, June 23rd, states:
"Each municipality, based on their own COVID numbers, would have an opportunity to look at that number and say 'maybe we need to look at and say only maybe a hundred or less would be allowed unless it had mayoral approval."
In Marshall it didn’t take long to find people who support the governor’s pause, including Tasha Williams.
“We have a lot of people that are elderly that are being exposed because people are not wearing the mask appropriately, like they should be when they go out,”said Williams, “We have people like myself, with compromised immune systems that are being exposed. And if we want to get things under control, I think he’s making the best decision. Just pause it for now.”
For small business owners, like Joseph Filippazzo, there were some tough decisions to make about his restaurant, Pietro’s, as the state began to reopen the economy.
“We took a different approach. We continued to stay a to-go, curbside, delivery concept up until a week ago,” said Filippazzo.
So far, Harrison County, Texas has seen 26 deaths, all coming from patients 65 and older.
At last count they had 277 positive cases of COVID-19.