Valley part of state push for more virus testing in minority communities

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas will push for increased coronavirus testing in minority communities that have been hit hard by cases by expanding walk-up and drive-through testing sites, Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday.

The Republican also said Texas will be poised to react to any surge in cases that may come from exposure in large public demonstrations that have been held since the death of former Houston resident George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, who was black, died on Memorial Day after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after the handcuffed man stopped moving and pleading for air.

“We must address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underserved and minority communities and ensure that anyone who needs a test can get one,” the Republican Abbott said.

The move comes after several black lawmakers complained the state hasn’t adequately addressed their pleas for better racial data and efforts to decrease COVD-19’s decidedly deadly toll on black Americans.

Many of the more than 70,000 confirmed cases and 1,700 deaths on the state’s case dashboard do not have information on race and ethnicity.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management is working with local officials in Dallas, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley and several other areas to ramp up testings sites for each community, Abbott said.

While Texas is further easing its economic lockdown — restaurants will be allowed to operate at 75 percent capacity later this week, for example — the governor’s office is eyeing the protests as a potential cause of a possible surge in cases.

“We are ensuring that Texans can continue to safely exercise their First Amendment Rights while putting protocols in place to identify and mitigate any spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said.

Texas has seen a recent rise the number of daily cases, hospitalizations and the 7-day average positivity rate of testing. Saturday’s 1,940 new cases was the state’s second-highest single day total, and the positivity rate had surged to 7.6%, its highest mark since late April.

Texas reported 1,935 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 on Monday, setting a single-day high.

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