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As cases skyrocket, Texas officials disagree over testing

A disagreement between city and state authorities over which test result constitutes “positive” in Texas is complicating the state’s case count, with cities like San Antonio adding over 5,000 cases in one day due to the backlog created by the discrepancy. Joey Palacio of Texas Public Radio joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the situation in one of America’s growing hotspots.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For an update on what is happening in Texas we turn to Joey Palacio of Texas Public Radio.

    Joey, what's the situation like in San Antonio and more broadly in Texas?

  • Joey Palacios:

    One of the biggest increases we've ever seen in any city happened on Thursday when the city added more than 5,500 new cases of COVID-19 in a single day. Now, that is actually the result of a backlog from a state lab that the city got all at once.

    Yesterday in San Antonio, we saw an 1,100 cases added and we're seeing over a thousand cases added in some Texas cities. And there's even been some dispute between the San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department and also the state on different forms of testing.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So there's a discrepancy in what test result constitutes positive in Texas?

  • Joey Palacios:

    Right. So there's two types of tests that are used. One is a molecular test also known as PCR. And then there are antigen tests. Where the discrepancy is happening is while San Antonio is considering both the molecular and the antigen test in its total test results, the state is only taking the molecular tests. They had to subtract 3500 cases.

    And this week, also Texas crossed 300,000 cases. I think we're approaching, if not already, over 320,000 cases. And a lot of this over, I would say about half has happened within the last month. So Texas is seeing a skyrocketing amount of cases.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What's been happening along the Rio Grande Valley, the border towns?

  • Joey Palacios:

    So there is a county called Hidalgo County. On Friday, for instance, there were 450 people who tested positive. And this is a county of about 800,000 people or so. They have 267 deaths in Hidalgo County, and yet its population is around 800,000. Whereas here in Bexar County in San Antonio, we also have about that number of deaths as well, maybe around 240 or so. But we have two million people here.

    And one of the big things to note is that Hidalgo is a heavily Latino community. And we have seen this virus disproportionately affect people of color. It affects the black community, affects the Latino community. And so you're seeing a higher number of deaths in a county that is that is very heavily populated by Latinos.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    We're also hearing about a large number of infections of infants.

  • Joey Palacios:

    Yes. So on Friday, Nueces County announced that it was adding 85 infants that have tested positive for COVID-19. And the public health director, she had said that these babies have not celebrated even their first birthday yet. That's about all the information that we have so far as to as to these children. So we are starting to see this this virus effect very, very young children, even at a point where Texas is is debating on reopening schools.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Are people taking this seriously. When you're out in your reporting, do you see mask usage?

  • Joey Palacios:

    After the cases just started increasing exponentially, the governor put in a statewide mask order for counties that have more than 20 cases of COVID-19. And you have some folks that aren't comfortable wearing masks. You have some folks that refuse to wear masks.

    But I've noticed that since it's come back, at least here in San Antonio, that mask wearing has gone way, way, way up just from my own being out and about in some cases.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Joey Palacios from Texas Public Radio. Thanks so much for joining us.

  • Joey Palacios:

    Thanks, Hari.

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