COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations continue surging in Harris County and Texas

Reported coronavirus infections and hospitalizations continued to surge Thursday in Texas as Gov. Greg Abbott continues his phased reopening of the state’s economic activity.

MORE: Bars now at 50% capacity in Texas as part of Gov. Abbott's Phase 3 to Reopen Texas

The Department of State Health Services said 1,649 more cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, were reported to the state Thursday. That brought the total number of reported cases to a few cases shy of 67,000.

The state reported 1,796 COVID-19 hospitalizations Thursday, a one-day increase of 309 and the third-highest Texas total of the outbreak. The 33 new COVID-19 deaths reported Thursday brought the Texas death toll for the outbreak to 1,767.

The actual number of positive cases is believed to be much higher because of testing shortages and because some people with the disease don’t show symptoms.

MORE: Texas' online statewide COVID-19 test collection map

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted concern on Thursday about the "statistically significant" increase in the county's COVID-19 hospitalization.

"Over the past 7 days we've seen a statistically significant (95% confidence level) increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions," she tweeted. "I remain very concerned about the impact of reopening too quickly. Please take personal responsibility. Social distance. Wear face coverings. Avoid groups."

While Judge Hidalgo says she's worried the increase is due to reopening too quickly, another factor is the marches and rallies protesting the death of George Floyd. According to Dr. David Persse with the Houston Health Dept., they are considered “virus spreading events.”

Houston health officials say we’ll find out in the coming weeks whether Tuesday's march helped lead to the second wave of coronavirus COVID-19.

MORE: George Floyd march was a ‘virus spreading event,’ health experts warn

Sixty-thousand people walked within inches of each other, shouting and holding hands—a prime recipe for the spread of coronavirus said Persse.

“Those are all things that the virus will take advantage of to spread from person to person,” said Persse. “Yelling and speaking loudly ... you’re propelling, you’re projecting more moisture into the air, and in this case—if you’re infected—that moisture is laden with viruses.”

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Abbott’s order for “Phase 3” of the restart Wednesday allowed retailers to accommodate 50% capacity immediately, and the same applies to bars as long as patrons are seated. Restaurants can serve groups as large as 10 and can expand to 75% total capacity starting June 12. It also allows for outdoor Fourth of July celebrations of 500 or more at the discretion of local officials.

The order also allows amusement parks to gradually expand capacity. All are supposed to follow health and social distancing standards recommended by state and federal officials.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.