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Texas COVID-19 cases continue to rise: 'This is the consequence' of opening early, doctor says

The latest COVID-19 model shows Harris County's projected four-week spike could be the second-worst in the country.

HOUSTON — Gov. Greg Abbott told Texans not to panic Tuesday after another record-high number of new COVID-19 cases were reported across the state.

"The increased occupancy in hospital beds, it does raise concerns, but as shown today, there is no reason to be alarmed," Abbott said.

The governor blamed the spikes on batches of positive tests in prisons, assisted living facilities and some data errors. He insists that the reopening of Texas is going smoothly.

"COVID-19 hasn't magically left the state of Texas, it's still here," Abbott said. "We do not have to choose between either returning to jobs or protecting healthcare."

Abbott's press conference left infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez with key questions unanswered.

"What's the contingency if these numbers continue to go up precipitously?" Hotez said.

Right now, 21% of Houston-area hospital beds remain available. The problem, Hotez said, is that the cases are going up, not down.

"The models tell a frightening story," Hotez said. "People were aggressive about opening early and this is the consequence of it, unfortunately."

The latest University of Pennsylvania models show Harris County's four-week case projection is the second-worst in the country, behind Maricopa County in Arizona.

"If by next week these numbers continue to accelerate, we may have to make some hard choices," Hotez said.

It's why Mayor Sylvester Turner is one of several Texas mayors who signed a letter calling on Abbott to allow them to mandate face coverings to slow the spread.

"Masks give us a fighting chance," Hotez said.

For now, Abbott is not budging.

"All of us have a collective responsibility to educate the public that wearing a mask is the right thing to do, but putting people in jail however is the wrong approach," Abbott said.

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