AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Texas surpassed 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday, as Gov. Greg Abbott suggested family and neighborhood meetings are behind a sharp rise in the rate of positive tests, which have climbed to record levels just as schools are starting to reopen across the state.
He also went on to say more testing in Texas is likely after falling off in recent weeks, a trend seen across the United States, even as deaths increase.
Texas has reported more than 1,400 new deaths in the past week, including 220 on Tuesday.
Although health officials say there are encouraging signs in Texas – especially hospitalization levels, which have fallen more than 30% since the peak of July ̵
Dallas County reports 30 more coronavirus deaths, but new cases fall below 300
As of Monday, an average of one in five coronavirus tests in Texas had returned positive in the past seven days, the highest level since the pandemic began.
“There is a reason this is happening, I think, and there are some who feel that if they are only with family members,” they can let their guards know, Abbott told reporters in Victoria, which had a wave of falls in July. “And that does not turn out to be the case.”
The rising infection rate comes as tests in Texas have dropped, and the seven-day average dropped below 30,000 on Tuesday for the first time since June, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Abbott said higher tests in July were the result of “surge testing” in hot places and nursing homes and suggested more would come, including 50,000 more tests in Harris County starting this week.
In Austin, health officials say testing has dropped dramatically from more than 6,000 a week in July, but said the reason was a decline in demand. Widespread testing is considered necessary to deal with the outbreak as the US surpassed 5 million confirmed infections this month.
Part of the decline in testing in recent weeks across the country was expected after retrospective commercial laboratories urged doctors to concentrate on their high-risk patients.
But some health and government officials have seen growing public frustration over waiting times and declining demand
“We’re seeing what’s being seen in many parts of the country right now and there’s a significant reduction in the test being done,” said Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Temporary Health Authority. “This is not because tests are not available, it’s because smaller individuals sign up for testing.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)