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How did we get here? Texas now first state to hit 1 million COVID-19 cases

It took Texas eight months to reach 1 million COVID-19 cases, and now experts worry the case count will escalate even faster.

HOUSTON — Texas is leading the nation in the worst way. The state has now eclipsed the 1 million COVID-19 case mark. It's the first state in the country to do so.

RELATED: Texas becomes 1st state to surpass 1 million COVID-19 cases

Texas' climb to the top of the COVID-19 count has been stunning and fast. On March 4, Texas had zero reported coronavirus cases. Two months later, by May 1, Texas was on the brink of 30,000 cases. It only got worse. By July 1, Texas had 168,062 cases.

It exploded by September hitting more than half a million cases. And now, Texas has recorded a U.S.-leading 1,010,364 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

"A lot of things about this virus and this state have got us to this point," Dr. David Callender said.

Callender is president of Memorial Hermann Health System. He said the data is disturbing and is a cause for concern. There are more people infected in Texas than live in the capital city of Austin. And if Texas were its own country, we'd rank 10th in total infections hopping over previous global hotspots like Italy.

"We believe we're moving into a time of higher risk," Callender said.

The state's positivity rate is now 11.63% and climbing. Texas is second in deaths with nearly 20,000. El Paso has become the epicenter of the crisis in Texas. Officials requesting more mobile trailers there to house the dead.

Back in Harris County, cases are climbing, too. There are more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients in Houston area hospitals for the first time since September.

In a statement, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said: 

“What we’re seeing here in Texas is what happens when you let denial and politics drive public health policy. It’s tragic not only because of the alarming trends we’re seeing but also because we’re stuck in a vicious cycle of wishful thinking and unsustainable reopenings. There is a path to getting the virus under control and having a sustainable new normal, but it requires serious and consistent leadership.  So long as those with the power to take action continue minimizing the virus and failing to enact aggressive policies, we’ll fail to pull out of this together.”

Pfizer's vaccine news this week offers hope. But experts said things could get far worse before that vaccine is rolled out. The CDC said the biggest weapons we have are face masks and avoiding any type of large crowds. Ultimately, it's up to each of us to do the right thing to turn this around.

"It really comes down to each one of us living up to our responsibility to protect our community," Callender said.