Texas hit a grim new milestone this week as its number of COVID-19 cases surpassed 1 million.
According to data from the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, Texas has reported 1,010,364 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Wednesday, with 19,337 deaths due to the virus. The state, which has grappled with a surge of hospitalizations in El Paso this week, also saw 12,337 new cases and 114 deaths within a 24-hour period.
Following closely behind the figures for the Lone Star State are those for the countries of Italy, Mexico and Peru, where cases have surpassed 900,000 for each. The statistics for Texas also place it just behind Colombia, which has 1,155,356 cases, and the U.K., which has 1,237,226 cases.
Texas has a population of about 29 million, and each of these nations has more people than that, most of them substantially more.
Dr. David Callender, president of the Houston area’s Memorial Hermann Health System, told The Houston Chronicle that the numbers for Texas were “a sobering statistic” that had been exacerbated by politics.
“To me, politics entered in an inappropriate way,” Callender said. “People making a political statement with their behavior — that the pandemic is a hoax, that no one can make them wear a mask — really interfered with efforts. It was the wrong mindset.”
Texas has struggled with inconsistent governance and guidance from its leaders concerning the coronavirus. Taking cues from President Donald Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called for an aggressive statewide reopening in May that then was paused in June due to surging infections. In July, Abbott issued a mandatory face mask executive order after initially rallying against wearing the coverings. In September and October, restaurants and bars were allowed to re-open with limited capacity ― though local governments, like Harris County (which includes Houston), have kept bars closed.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), an El Paso resident, slammed Abbott’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in July, claiming that the governor had demonstrated “one of the most craven, callous failures of leadership” that he’d ever witnessed.