Governor: Texas surpasses 5,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day for the first time

Governor Greg Abbott said Tuesday that Texas has surpassed 5,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day for the first time.

The governor did not offer an exact number of new positive cases or tests in total, which were expected to be available later Tuesday.

The announcement comes days after Texas eclipsed 4,000 new cases for the first time just last weekend.

On Monday, Governor Abbott underscored that the infection rate in Texas has doubled since late May to nearly 9 percent and that the state reached an 11th consecutive day of record COVID-19 hospitalizations with more than 3,700.

MORE: Abbott says rate of COVID-19 spread ‘unacceptable’ in Texas, doesn’t impose new rules or closures

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reemphasized the need for Texans to wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines, warning that the state risks having stricter measures reinstated otherwise.

"If we do not start wearing masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, it could result in that business actually having to close back down," Abbott said Monday. "Our goal is to keep businesses open, to keep society engaged and one of the most effective tools that we can do that is by people wearing masks."

Abbott has stressed that Texas still has plenty of hospital beds, but some of the state’s largest medical centers are starting to carve out new spaces to manage rising caseloads. Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in the United States, said Tuesday it was admitting adult patients across its campuses to free up more hospital bed space in the Houston area.

The number of COVID-19-positive hospital patients in Harris County, which encompasses Houston, has nearly tripled since May 31.

"Our power on the local level was stripped away and we started opening up," Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday. "I said two months ago I thought we were moving too quickly, too fast, and now we find ourselves where we are today."

MORE: Houston could become worst-affected city in U.S. if COVID-19 trajectory continues

The steep rise in Houston’s infection rate caught the eye of leading vaccine researcher Dr. Peter Hotez at Baylor College of Medicine.

"Early last week we started to see a change in that rise, it went like this to almost vertical," Dr. Hotez said. 

In a tweet, Dr. Hotez said if the trajectory persists, Houston would become the worst affected city in the U.S., maybe rivaling the situation in Brazil. He also worries that masks alone, simply won’t be enough and suggested that Houston would need to proceed to red alert, which means staying home.

"The bottom line is that Texas as a whole is one of the worst affected states in the U.S. along with Florida and Arizona," Dr. Hotez said.

Officials said roughly 32,000 COVID-19 tests are conducted on average every day statewide.

Monday was the first day of Harris County’s new mask mandate, which levies at least a $1,000 fine against businesses that don’t make their customers wear masks.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, and be fatal.

MORE: Fauci hopeful for a coronavirus vaccine by late 2020, early 2021

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday he is cautiously optimistic there will be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021, but warned that the next few weeks will be critical to tamping down coronavirus hot spots around the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.