Coronavirus in Texas: Austin extends stay-at-home orders to end of May

"Coronavirus in Texas: Austin extends stay-at-home orders to end of May" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Friday's biggest developments

  • Texas reports 36,609 cases and 1,004 deaths
  • Austin's stay-at-home orders extended to end of May
  • Bexar County officials tap federal funds to assist residents

Attorney general says Dallas County judge can't regulate pawn shop operations -[6:48 p.m.] Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins does not have the authority to regulate pawn shops as part of local government efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19

Paxton issued his opinion after state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, requested the guidance April 20 and asked if Jenkins had the authority to preempt the Texas Pawnshop Act by changing interest rates, limiting the number of people inside the shops and extending the number of days pawn shops could hold goods.

“While local officials possess certain limited emergency powers, those powers do not authorize a county judge to amend state law that the Legislature has expressly removed from local control,” Paxton explained in his nonbinding opinion. “To the extent that the Dallas County Order attempts to do so, a court would likely find it invalid and unenforceable.”

The restrictions on the Dallas-area stores were included in Jenkins’ amended order last month. Jenkins said the pawn shops could resume operations if they followed consumer-protection orders and mandated social distancing, The Dallas Morning News reported. But Paxton’s opinion concluded by saying that the local order is superseded by Abbott’s directive on store operations. — Julián Aguilar

Texas reports 36,609 cases and 1,004 deaths -[12:45 p.m.] Texas reported 1,219 more cases of the new coronavirus Friday, an increase of about 3% over the previous day, bringing the total number of known cases to 36,609. The case increase comes as the state ramps up testing; the state reported results from 21,956 tests Friday, the second-highest daily total since testing began.

Two new counties reported their first cases Friday; over 85% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case. -Harris County has reported the most cases, 7,377, followed by Dallas County, which has reported 5,120 cases. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.

The state has reported 31 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 1,004 — an increase of about 3% from Thursday. Harris County reported four additional deaths, bringing its total to 154 deaths, more than any other county.

As of Friday, 1,734 patients are known to be hospitalized in Texas. That’s a decrease of 16 patients from Thursday. At least 477,118 tests have been conducted. — Darla Cameron

Austin's stay-at-home orders extended to end of May -[11:25 a.m.] Austin city officials announced an extension of the city’s stay-home orders Friday, saying their approach is to emphasize behaviors such as social distancing and wearing masks, and to increase testing and contact tracing.

Gov. Greg Abbott has been relaxing stay-at-home requirements and allowing some nonessential businesses to reopen while emphasizing his refusal to enforce mandatory masks. He has also repeatedly said that his orders supersede those of county judges and mayors.

In a news conference Friday with Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the city’s “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders have been updated to comply with the governor’s orders, adding that Abbott's reopening comes “sooner than I had liked.” The city order will last until the end of the month, with additional measures on the horizon.

Social distancing is still mandated, and both Adler and Eckhardt urged residents to only leave their homes when essential. Although masks cannot be mandated with a penalty, Adler warned that the real penalty would be a spike in cases and said he was concerned by the number of people he saw without face coverings this week.

“My hope is that we can make the governor’s plan as successful as we can be,” Adler said. “I would just remind everybody that this virus is just as infective today as it was a month ago. The overarching message is still to stay home and stay safe.” — Raga Justin

Bexar County will spend most of its federal aid money to help residents impacted by economic downturn -[5 a.m.] Bexar County officials will spend more than $52 million of the $80 million the county will receive from a federal coronavirus relief bill to aid residents needing jobs, food, housing money or help covering utility bills, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Texas cities and counties that have offered residents financial assistance have been swamped by demand for the programs they offer.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided up to $11.2 billion to Texas. Around half of that money goes directly to cities and counties with over 500,000 people. The other half will go through the state to jurisdictions of less than 500,000 people. 

More than 100 Texas mayors asked Gov. Greg Abbott for guidance Thursday on how they can apply for funds being sent to the state first. — Brandon Formby

Texas reports 35,390 cases and 973 deaths -[5 a.m.] Texas health officials will release the latest numbers of coronavirus cases Friday. As of Thursday, at least 35,390 Texans had tested positive and 973 have died. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents. — Mandi Cai

Disclosure: Steve Adler, a Texas Tribune board chairman, has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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