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COVID-19 updates: Gov. Abbott pauses new phases of reopening Texas due to increased cases, hospitalizations

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a separate executive order earlier Thursday to pause elective surgeries in four Texas counties: Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis.

DALLAS — This story will be continuously updated. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday the pause of further reopening phases in the state due "to the recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations."

"The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses," he said in a news release. "This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business."

Businesses can continue to operate at occupancy levels set under current phases of reopening and should observe the minimum health protocols set by state health authorities, according to the governor. 

Abbott said he doesn't want to revert to earlier business closures. 

The governor began reopening the state with a series of orders that started in late April and continued into early June. 

Abbott continued to call on residents to do their parts in stopping the spread. 

"I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and socially distancing from others," Abbott said in a statement. "The more that we all follow these guidelines, the safer our state will be, and the more we can open up Texas for business.”

Earlier Thursday, Abbott announced he was pausing elective surgeries in four of the state's largest counties: Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis.

Tarrant County was not included in Abbott's new order. 

For a daily roundup of the biggest coronavirus news from around North Texas and beyond, sign up for the WFAA COVID-19 email newsletter. 

Cornyn, Cruz send letter requesting continued federal support for COVID-19 testing sites

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn sent a letter to Health and Human Services and FEMA urging continued federal support for community-based COVID-19 testing sites in Texas.

The senators sent the letter Thursday addressed to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Pete Gaynor urging them to continue the federal support for sites in Texas as testing capacity remains a crucial component to defeating COVID-19, strengthening the economy, and safely getting Texans back to work.

RELATED: Cornyn, Cruz send letter requesting continued federal support for COVID-19 testing sites in Texas

Dallas County reports 403 new cases, 6 additional COVID-19 deaths

In Dallas County, health officials have noted the spread of the disease among child care facilities. 

More than 31 cases reported since June 1 have been linked to 18 child care centers.

Health officials reported 403 new cases Thursday and six additional deaths due to COVID-19. 

Among those who died are: 

  • A Dallas resident in his 60s. The man had been hospitalized. 
  • A Dallas resident in her 70s. She died at a hospital. 
  • A Dallas resident in his 70s. He had been hospitalized. 
  • Two Dallas residents in their 80s. Both men had been hospitalized. 
  • A Dallas resident in her 80s. She had been hospitalized.

Denton County reports 77 new cases, Collin County reports 37 new cases

Denton County health officials reported 77 new cases Thursday, and Collin County officials reported 37 new cases of COVID-19. 

Collin County also reported one new death from the disease. 

Both counties have reported nearly 2,500 coronavirus cases since tracking began in March. The counties also each report more than 1,000 people have recovered from the disease. 

Tarrant County reports 517 new coronavirus cases 

Tarrant County health officials reported 517 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Thursday. 

The county has reported 10,363 COVID-19 cases since tracking began in March. In the past seven days, the county has recorded 1,804 new cases. 

There are more than 4,400 actives cases of the disease in Tarrant County, according to state data. 

RELATED: Tarrant County reports 517 new coronavirus cases

Texas Juvenile Justice Departments says 6 youths, 17 staff positive for COVID-19

Texas Juvenile Justice Department announced five more youths at its facilities have tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday, bringing the total to seven positive cases.

The department says five juveniles at Giddings State School have been on medical quarantine since June 22, after an initial reported that one tested positive on that day.

One juvenile at Gainesville State School tested positive earlier this week.

The department also reported that 17 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the following facilities:

  • Evins Regional Juvenile Center: 8
  • Gainesville State School: 2
  • Giddings State School: 7

Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will not be used as overflow hospital

In a tweet Thursday afternoon, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will not be used as an overflow hospital at this time. 

Johnson said officials with Dallas County and the DFW Hospital Council told him they believe they are capable of handling COVID-19 hospitalizations with the current medical facilities available. 

Gov. Greg Abbott announced in March that the convention center would serve as an overflow hospital if needed, but it has not been used during the pandemic. 

Tarrant County issues mask mandate

Tarrant County officials announced Thursday they were issuing a mask order, saying business must require guests and employees to wear masks. That order goes into effect at 6 p.m. Friday.

Under the order, businesses in violation could face a $1,000 fine. 

RELATED: Tarrant County judge: 'If you leave home, put on a mask'

The Tarrant County announcement comes just one day after Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson led a news conference with a simple statement: "Wear a mask." 

"This is the single most important thing that you can do to slow the spread of COVID-19," Johnson said, seated at Dallas City Hall, wearing a mask. 

Prior to Johnson's statement, Abbott said Texas is facing a “massive outbreak” in the coronavirus pandemic. He says some new local restrictions may be needed to protect hospital space for new patients.  

On Saturday, a new order went into effect requiring businesses and people across Dallas County to wear a face covering. 

RELATED: Here's how to make your own face mask without any sewing

Gov. Abbott issues orders suspending elective surgeries in four Texas counties

All hospitals in Harris, Bexar, Dallas, and Travis counties are directed to postpone all surgeries & procedures that aren't immediately, medically necessary to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The goal of the executive order is to ensure hospital bed availability for COVID-19 patients as Texas faces an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

On Wednesday Abbott conceded that Texas is facing a "massive outbreak" of COVID-19.

“As Texas faces a rise in COVID-19 cases, we are focused on both slowing the spread of this virus and maintaining sufficient hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients,” said Governor Abbott. “These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and today’s action is a precautionary step to help ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients." 

RELATED: Gov. Abbott issues order that suspends elective surgeries in Harris, Bexar, Dallas, Travis counties

Main St. Fort Worth canceled for 2020

The 2020 Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival has been canceled, event organizers say. 

The event, which was originally scheduled to take place April 16 to 19, had been rescheduled to September.

The decision to call off this year's event was made by the board of directors of Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives, Inc. and the event organizers. 

"Cancellation is due to increasing Coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns and governmental recommendations for restricting large gatherings in order to prevent community spread," a release posted online read.

Event organizers said while the decision was difficult, the safety and well-being of everyone involved remains their top priority. 

People are encouraged to support artists by visiting the online gallery.

Dallas Zoo to require face coverings for guests ages 10 and older

The Dallas Zoo announced Thursday that it would be updating its policy on face masks. 

Beginning immediately, visitors ages 10 years and older would be required to wear a face mask. The zoo also said it strongly encouraged children under 10 years of age to wear masks as well.

Guests who do not comply will be asked to leave, according to zoo officials.

Guests can take off their masks while eating or drinking, if they have a health reason that prevents wearing one, or take a short break from wearing masks while outdoors, according to a release from the zoo.

5 Kaufman County courthouse employees test positive for COVID-19

Five Kaufman County courthouse employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week, Judge Hal Richards announced Thursday.

According to the courthouse, two employees tested positive last week and three tested positive this week.

Judge Richards said those who were in direct contact with the employees have been contacted and are encouraged to be tested.

Everyone who enters the Kaufman County courthouse is offered a mask, and those who enter are also urged to maintain six-foot social distancing.

Richards said additional cleaning of the courthouse has been completed following the positive test results. Anyone who has questions concerning COVID response efforts at the courthouse are asked to contact their department head or Richards’ office.

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