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Coronavirus Cases Surge In Texas Panhandle As State Continues To Reopen

The Amarillo area of Texas, which includes Potter and Randall counties, has more than 2,700 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
Joe Sohm/Visions of America
Universal Images Group via Getty
The Amarillo area of Texas, which includes Potter and Randall counties, has more than 2,700 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Updated at 5:16 p.m. ET

Texas is moving forward with further reopening plans Monday but will delay the execution of those plans in the state's northern panhandle in light of its relatively high rate of confirmed coronavirus cases near Amarillo. Amarillo alone had more than 700 new cases on Friday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced in a news conference on Monday that four counties in the Amarillo area, as well as El Paso County, would not be able to move to the next steps of reopening until May 29. This second phase of reopening includes gyms, office spaces and nonessential manufacturers being allowed to open. Restaurants in this phase will be able to shift from 25% of capacity to 50%.

In the Amarillo area, which includes Potter and Randall counties, total confirmed cases are now over 2,700.

Moore County, just north of Amarillo, has the highest per capita number of cases in the state. One in every 39 people therehave tested positive for the coronavirus.

The four counties — Randall, Potter, Deaf Smith and Moore — have higher per capita coronavirus rates than any of Texas' large metro areas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday attributed the spike in Amarillo's cases to increased testing. Abbott deployed a so-called surge response team to the city to test people in high-risk areas such as meatpacking facilities. Last week, one plant in the area saw a quick jump in cases, as High Plains Public Radio reported.

"Today, Texas is seeing the results of those tests and will continue to see these results in targeted areas over the next two weeks," the governor said.

More than 2,400 test results are pending in Potter and Randall counties, which have multiple meatpacking and food processing facilities, according to Amarillo Public Health.

The governor's statement highlighted the Amarillo region's health care capacity. The area can make up to 752 beds available, including surge beds; 110 ventilators are also available.

Texas is launching a new wave of reopenings this week, with gyms, office spaces and nonessential manufacturers allowed to open with some limitations and safety protocols. Many public health experts have warned that states such as Texas are acting too quickly.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Austin Horn is a 2019-2020 Kroc Fellow. He joined NPR after internships at the San Antonio Express-News and Frankfort State-Journal, as well as a couple stints in the service industry. He aims to keep his reporting grounded in the experience of real individuals of all stripes.