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‘Unsustainable situation’: How Texas became virus hotspot

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'Unsustainable situation': How Texas became virus hotspot

Health care professional Kenzie Anderson takes a sample from a patient at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site Friday, June 26, 2020, in Houston. Ever since restarting the Lone Star state’s economy in early May, Abbott ignored the pleas of mayors and county leaders to impose strict rules to stop COVID-19. The 62-year-old Republican appeared repeatedly on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to tout his commitment to keeping business open, while the pandemic quietly gathered strength.

During the past week, Texas saw record case numbers, and hospitals in Houston, its biggest city, neared their limits. Even then, Abbott agreed only to pause the reopening. He didn’t order people to wear masks or stop going out.

Abbott’s reversal underscored a crisis that was weeks in the making and driven by four distinct causes: the failure of public-health work like contact tracing, heavy economic pressure, the political neutering of its cities, and Abbott’s solidarity with President Donald Trump’s agenda. Every week of free commerce allowed more Texans to fall ill.

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Now, the second-most-populous state faces the prospect of mortality like that seen in New York three months ago. Texas is fast becoming the new center of the pandemic in the U.S. The nation on Saturday saw total cases jump 1.9%, the biggest percentage increase in six weeks, with more than 45,000 new infections.

On Friday, the top official in Harris County, which includes Houston, declared an emergency, and thousands of cell phones buzzed with warnings to shelter in place. “Today, we find ourselves careening toward a catastrophic and unsustainable situation,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said during a media briefing. “There is a […]

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