How the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded in Texas since March

ByElvia Limón, The Texas Tribune KTRK logo
Friday, July 31, 2020
Reopening Texas
ABC13 anchor Tom Abrahams went after answers to your questions about COVID-19, business and the Texas economy.

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- When did the novel coronavirus first start to affect Texas and Texans? We put together a timeline of the state's efforts to protect public health during the pandemic, and how those restrictions and provisions have changed over time.

March 1, 2020

San Antonio bans evacuees

The novel coronavirus made news in Texas just two months into 2020. In February, San Antonio's Lackland Air Force Base began housing people who had been overseas and exposed to the new coronavirus.

Weeks later, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg declares a public health emergency over COVID-19 and demands that 120 people who were expected to be released from a two-week quarantine at the base be held longer for additional medical testing. He also bans quarantine evacuees from entering his city.

March 2, 2020

San Antonio sues CDC

San Antonio city officials sue the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a suite of other federal agencies, asking a federal court to immediately raise the standards for releasing people quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base because of potential exposure to the new coronavirus. A federal judge says the court shared "the concerns expressed" in the lawsuit but shoots down the request.

March 6, 2020 6 statewide cases

Austin officials cancel SXSW

Austin Mayor Steve Adler declares a local disaster in response to the new coronavirus and issues an order canceling South by Southwest for the first time in its 34-year history. The 10-day event was expected to bring in hundreds of thousands of attendees from around the globe.

March 11, 2020 21 statewide cases

Texas colleges and universities go online, Houston rodeo is called off

Dozens of Texas universities announce they will extend students' spring breaks and start switching to online classes.

Houston officials call off the remainder of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

March 13, 2020 50 statewide cases

Governor declares statewide emergency

Gov. Greg Abbott declares that the new coronavirus is a statewide public health disaster and says Texas is on the verge of being able to significantly ramp up its testing capacity. The governor also directs day cares, nursing homes and prisons to limit visitations and orders state employees to work from home, where possible. The state also gets its first drive-thru testing center in San Antonio, but it's not open to the public.

March 15, 2020 68 statewide cases

First Texan dies from the new coronavirus

Matagorda County officials report that a man in his late 90s died with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, making it the first known novel coronavirus-related death in Texas.

March 16, 2020 69 statewide cases

Dallas and Houston close bars, clubs and make restaurants takeout only

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson orders the closing of all Dallas bars, lounges, taverns, nightclubs, gyms and health clubs, theaters, music venues, and entertainment establishments such as arcades and billiard halls. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo orders only bars to close. Restaurants in both Dallas and Harris County remain open for drive-thru, takeout and delivery, but dine-in service is prohibited. The closures are announced for at least a week in an aggressive attempt to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

March 17, 2020 76 statewide cases

Texas remains open. National Guard is activated

While nearly 30 states mandate temporary school closures, only half of Texas school districts order students to stay home after spring break. Gov. Greg Abbott gives cities, counties, school districts and universities the discretion to respond to the virus however they see fit. Over the weekend, Abbott says he is confident that cities will make the best decisions for their communities. Abbott also activates the Texas National Guard to help with coronavirus efforts and suspends part of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

March 18, 2020 95 statewide cases

"People eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that. These viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people, and that's why China has been the source of a lot of these viruses."

- John Cornyn told a reporter, according to a video posted on Twitter by The Hill.

March 19, 2020 161 statewide cases

Evictions are halted

The Texas Supreme Court issues an order halting eviction proceedings statewide until April 19, with one exception that lets landlords proceed with eviction cases only if the actions of the occupants "pose an imminent threat" of physical harm to the landlord, the landlord's employees or other tenants, or if the occupants are engaging in criminal activity.

March 19, 2020 161 statewide cases

Texas closes bars, restaurants and schools

Gov. Greg Abbott issues an executive order that limits social gatherings to 10 people, prohibits eating and drinking at restaurants and bars while still allowing takeout, closes gyms, bans people from visiting nursing homes except for critical care, and temporarily closes schools. The executive order is effective through midnight April 3.

March 20, 2020 212 statewide cases

Southern border is closed, Texas delays May runoff elections, small businesses can apply for emergency federal loans

The Trump administration closes the country's southern border to all nonessential travel and trade in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Essential travel includes crossing the border for medical or educational travel, emergency response and "lawful cross-border trade."

Gov. Greg Abbott moves the May 26 primary election runoffs to July 14, with early voting starting July 6. He also says small businesses battered by the coronavirus pandemic can apply for long-term, low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

March 21, 2020 325 statewide cases

Dallas County bans elective medical procedures

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins bans elective medical procedures through April 3 so health care resources can be steered toward patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Throughout the state, many medical providers have already started canceling or delaying elective procedures themselves.

March 22, 2020 355 statewide cases

Abbott moves to expand hospital capacity, Dallas County orders residents to shelter in place

Gov. Greg Abbott orders health care professionals to postpone "all surgeries that are not medically necessary" and suspends regulations to allow hospitals to treat more than one patient in a room as a way to expand hospital staffing and capacity in Texas. The order expires April 21. The governor declines to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order - even as calls for such an action increase as the new coronavirus continues to spread across the state.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issues a countywide shelter-in-place order - the most expansive action yet from a Texas official to combat the new coronavirus.

March 23, 2020 373 statewide cases

Texas stops most abortions, largest counties issue stay-at-home orders

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says abortions should not be performed unless the mother's life is in danger. Providers can be fined $1,000 or face jail time of up to 180 days if found in violation. Texas abortion providers sue top state officials two days later.

Many of Texas' biggest urban cities and counties order residents to stay indoors, including Harris, Tarrant, Collin, Bexar and Travis counties.

March 23, 2020 373 statewide cases

"I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me ... that what we all care about and what we all love more than anything are those children, and I want to, you know, live smart and see through this, but I don't want to see the whole country to be sacrificed, and that's what I see."

- Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Fox News

March 24, 2020 736 statewide cases

First Texas prisoner tests positive

The first Texas prisoner tests positive for the new coronavirus. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice says the 37-year-old man, who has a preexisting respiratory condition, is being treated at the prison system's hospital in Galveston.

March 25, 2020 995 statewide cases

The number of Texans filing for unemployment jumps 860%

The number of Texans filing for unemployment relief in one week surpasses the number of people who filed weekly during the Great Recession that lasted from late 2007 to mid 2009. Before businesses were shuttered due to the pandemic, 16,176 Texans had filed for new unemployment benefits. That number jumped up to 155,657 a week after the closures.

March 26, 2020 1,396 statewide cases

Air travelers are required to self-quarantine

Gov. Greg Abbott requires visitors flying to Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Orleans to self-quarantine for 14 days during the coronavirus pandemic.

March 28, 2020 2,052 statewide cases

SNAP and Medicaid coverage are extended

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission gets federal permission to extend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid coverage for existing clients until further notice.

March 29, 2020 2,552 statewide cases

Abbott expands travel restrictions

Gov. Greg Abbott expands his executive order requiring a 14-day self-quarantine for anyone flying into Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or New Orleans. Texas begins requiring a 14-day self-quarantine for anyone driving into Texas from Louisiana and for those flying in from Miami, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, California and Washington.

The governor also bars inmates accused or previously convicted of violent crimes from being released from jails without paying bail.

March 30, 2020 2,877 statewide cases

Older inmates sue, federal judge blocks temporary abortion ban

Two older Texas inmates sue the state's prison system for its handling of the new coronavirus pandemic.

A federal judge temporarily blocks Texas' ban on abortions. A federal appeals court reverses this a day later.

March 31, 2020 3,266 statewide cases

Governor tells Texans to stay home, closes schools until May 4

Gov. Greg Abbott tells Texans to stay at home for the next month unless they are taking part in essential services and activities. He declines to call his latest executive order a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order, arguing such labels leave the wrong impression and that he wants Texans to know, for example, they can still go to the grocery store. He also closes schools until at least May 4.

March 31, 2020 3,266 statewide cases

"If you're not engaged in an essential service or activity, then you need to be at home for the purpose of slowing the spread of COVID-19."

- Gov. Greg Abbott

April 1, 2020 3,997 statewide cases

Unemployment benefits delayed, attorneys challenge order blocking inmates' release

Texans trying to file for unemployment insurance find the Texas Workforce Commission's phone lines jammed and website servers overloaded as the agency is swamped by the crush of sudden need.

Civil rights attorneys file a court motion arguing that Gov. Greg Abbott's order restricting the release of some Texas jail inmates during the coronavirus pandemic unconstitutionally discriminates against poor defendants and takes away judges' power to make individual release decisions.

The city of El Paso updates its previous stay-at-home order with stronger restrictions.

April 2, 2020 4,669 statewide cases

Second large group in a nursing home tests positive

Eighty-three residents and staff members at The Resort in Texas City test positive for the virus. That comes less than a day after San Antonio officials announced that 67 out of 84 patients at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center had been infected.

April 3, 2020 5,330 statewide cases

CDC recommends cloth face coverings

President Donald Trump says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends Americans wear a "simple, cloth face covering" when they are in public.

April 6, 2020 7,276 statewide cases

Nursing home patients are treated with anti-malaria drug

Two dozen Texas City nursing home residents who have tested positive for the new coronavirus are treated with hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that President Donald Trump has touted as a possible treatment for COVID-19, even as medical experts urge caution because it has yet to be vetted for that purpose through robust clinical trials.

April 7, 2020 8,262 statewide cases

Texas Democrats sue to expand mail-in voting, court rules abortion ban can be enforced

The Texas Democratic Party files a federal lawsuit in San Antonio. They argue that holding traditional elections during the coronavirus pandemic would impose unconstitutional and illegal burdens on voters unless state law is clarified to expand voting by mail.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the state may continue to prohibit all abortions except those for patients whose pregnancies threaten their lives or health.

April 8, 2020 9,353 statewide cases

Harris County judges, ACLU sue Abbott

Harris County's misdemeanor judges, criminal defense organizations and the NAACP of Texas sue Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, arguing that orders restricting the release of some jail inmates during the pandemic violate the constitutional separation of powers and discriminate against poor criminal defendants. The plaintiffs are represented in part by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Fair Defense Project.

April 9, 2020 10,230 statewide cases

ACLU sues Dallas County over inmates, some abortions can proceed

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and other civil rights attorneys lead a federal lawsuit against Dallas County, asking for the immediate release of all county jail inmates who are over 50 or have medical conditions.

A federal judge in Austin rules that some abortions may proceed.

April 10, 2020 11,671 statewide cases

Court blocks Abbott's order limiting jail release

A federal appeals court once again lends support to state officials and prohibits abortions under all but a few narrow circumstances.

April 10, 2020 11,671 statewide cases

"As we head into Easter weekend, I'm filled with hope knowing the character that Texans have shown in responding to the coronavirus in Texas."

- Gov. Greg Abbott at an April 10 news conference, where he presented data from several key counties that he said showed the spread was starting to decelerate in most of them.

April 11, 2020 12,561 statewide cases

Abortion providers take legal fight to Supreme Court, inmate release order is revived

Abortion providers ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take emergency action to restore "essential, time-sensitive medication abortion services."

The Texas Supreme Court revives Gov. Greg Abbott's order restricting the release of some jail inmates during the coronavirus pandemic.

April 17, 2020 17,371 statewide cases

Abbott announces business reopenings and closes schools for the rest of the year

Gov. Greg Abbott announces initial steps to reopen Texas businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, including a plan for the next week to loosen surgery restrictions at medical facilities, allow all retail stores to provide product pickups and reopen state parks. He also announces that public and private school classrooms will remain closed for the remainder of the school year to avoid quickening the spread of COVID-19.

April 23, 2020 21,944 statewide cases

Conservative activist sues Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo

A Houston-area doctor who is also a conservative political activist sues to block Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's recent order requiring residents over 10 years old to wear face masks in public places for 30 days, with some narrow exceptions.

May 1, 2020 29,229 statewide cases

Several businesses reopen

Restaurants, retail outlets and movie theaters are allowed to reopen at 25% occupancy in Texas after being closed for weeks to fight the spread of the virus.

May 5, 2020 33,369 statewide cases

Abbott announces new reopenings

Gov. Greg Abbott announces he'll allow hair salons and pools in Texas to reopen on May 8 and gyms to reopen on May 18.

May 7, 2020 35,390 statewide cases

Dallas salon owner is released from jail

Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther, who defied orders to keep her business closed during the pandemic, was released from jail. She had been in jail two days before after being sentenced to seven days, but the Texas Supreme Court granted a motion to release her.

The order came soon after Gov. Greg Abbott announced he was modifying his recent executive orders related to the coronavirus pandemic to eliminate jail time for Texans who violate the restrictions.

May 8, 2020 36,609 statewide cases

Barbershops, hair salons and pools reopen

Barbers report being booked through the day due to pent-up demand related to the coronavirus. Under Gov. Greg Abbott's latest directive, shops could reopen at 25% occupancy. Hairstylists had a set of rules they needed to follow: one customer at a time, a recommended appointment-only system, styling stations 6 feet apart and a strong recommendation that stylists wear masks.

May 18, 2020 48,693 statewide cases

Abbott announces the next wave of reopenings, child care centers reopen

Gov. Greg Abbott announces his next wave of reopenings designed to restart the Texas economy during the coronavirus pandemic, saying child care facilities can reopen immediately and bars can open May 22 at limited capacity. Abbott exempted two hot-spot regions - Amarillo and El Paso - from his reopenings, saying they would need to wait a week - until May 29.

May 22, 2020 53,449 statewide cases

Bars and bowling alleys reopen, restaurants go to 50% occupancy

Texas bars, bowling alleys and other businesses are allowed to reopen at the start of Memorial Day weekend as long as they limit the number of customers to 25% of their occupancy. And restaurants were able to start operating at 50% capacity.

May 22, 2020 53,449 statewide cases

"There is no reason - capital N, capital O - no reason that anyone under 65 should be able to say I am afraid to go vote. Have they been to a grocery store? Have they been to Walmart? Have they been to Lowe's? Have they been to Home Depot? Have they been anywhere? Have they been afraid to go out of their house? This is a scam by the Democrats to steal the election."

- Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in a May 22 interview with Fox News.

May 26, 2020 56,560 statewide cases

Food courts can reopen

Gov. Greg Abbott allows food courts in shopping malls to reopen immediately. Abbott encourages malls to designate one or more people who are responsible for enforcing social distancing and ensuring tables are cleaned and disinfected between uses. Driver education programs also resume operations immediately.

May 27, 2020 57,921 statewide cases

Amarillo hot spot turns a corner, Abbott says

Gov. Greg Abbott and state and local health officials express confidence that they have made major progress in containing a hot spot of the new coronavirus in the Amarillo area.

May 27, 2020 57,921 statewide cases

"Amarillo is an example of how Texas is going about the process of responding to COVID-19 and this particular stage of COVID-19's life in Texas."

- Gov. Greg Abbott at a May 27 press conference.

May 29, 2020 61,006 statewide cases

Water parks reopen

Water parks begin operations with limited occupancy.

May 31, 2020 64,287 statewide cases

Recreational sport programs reopen

Recreational sports programs for adults can restart.

June 3, 2020 68,271 statewide cases

Almost all businesses can operate at 50% occupancy

Gov. Greg Abbott announces his third phase of reopening Texas businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing virtually all of them to operate at 50% capacity.

June 10, 2020 79,757 statewide cases

Texas hits a new daily high of cases, mail-in voting lawsuit is dismissed

Texas hits a new daily high in COVID-19 cases with 2,504 new cases reported.

Democrats and civic organizations that sued to expand voting by mail based on a lack of immunity to the new coronavirus ask a state appeals court to dismiss their case after the Texas Supreme Court guts it.

June 12, 2020 83,680 statewide cases

Restaurants expand capacity

Restaurants begin operating at 75% capacity.

June 16, 2020 93,206 statewide cases

More than 2,000 Texans die, Texas Workforce Commission reinstates work-search requirement, mayors urge Abbott let them require face masks

The new coronavirus kills more than 2,000 Texans. Texans under the age of 30 test positive for the new coronavirus at a higher rate than before.

The Texas Workforce Commission decides to restore its work-search requirement beginning July 6.

Nine mayors of Texas' biggest cities urge Gov. Greg Abbott to grant them the "authority to set rules and regulations" mandating face masks.

June 16, 2020 93,206 statewide cases

"The bottom line is this, and that is the increased capacity of hospital beds, it does raise concerns, but as shown today, there is no reason to be alarmed."

- Gov. Greg Abbott at a June 16 press conference

June 17, 2020 96,335 statewide cases

First counties impose mask rule

Bexar and Hidalgo counties impose new mask rules for local businesses.

June 18, 2020 99,851 statewide cases

Students will return to schools in the fall, Texas has a week of record highs

Gov. Greg Abbott tells state lawmakers that students will be returning to public schools in person this fall.

Texas coronavirus hospitalizations hit record highs for a full week.

June 19, 2020 103,305 statewide cases

Amusement parks reopen

Amusement parks and carnivals are allowed to open at 50% capacity.

June 20, 2020 107,735 statewide cases

Backlog is attributed to increase in cases

Texas reported a record number of new coronavirus cases for the fourth time in five days. State health officials attribute this to a data entry backlog in Harris County and Texans gathering at bars, beaches and other social events like graduation parties.

June 22, 2020 114,881 statewide cases

Closing Texas is "the last option"

Gov. Greg Abbott encourages Texans to stay home if they can, use hand sanitizer, keep 6 feet of distance from others and wear masks, but says "closing down Texas again will always be the last option."

June 22, 2020 114.881 statewide cases

"To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled."

- Gov. Greg Abbott at a June 22 press conference

June 23, 2020 120,370 statewide cases

Guidelines for schools are delayed

Texas education officials delay an expected announcement of school reopening guidelines, but a draft plan shows the state taking a light-handed role in coronavirus prevention measures.

Gov. Greg Abbott directs a state health agency to enact new safety standards for child care centers during the coronavirus. The governor also recommends that Texans stay at home.

June 24, 2020 125,921 statewide cases

Positivity rate exceeds "warning flag" level, New York imposes restrictions on travelers from Texas

Texas' positivity rate becomes 10.42%, a level the state hasn't seen since mid-April, when Texas was under a stay-at-home order. In early May, Gov. Greg Abbott said anything over 10% was cause for alarm.

Visitors from Texas will have to quarantine for 14 days if they travel to New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, governors announce.

Lawmakers from both parties urge the Trump administration to keep funding seven coronavirus testing sites.

Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University officials say masks will be non-negotiable in the fall.

June 25, 2020 131,917 statewide cases

Abbott pauses reopening, some cities look at reviving plans to add hospital beds

Gov. Greg Abbott pauses any further phases of reopening businesses in Texas. He also stops elective surgeries to preserve bed space for coronavirus patients in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties.

As Texas finishes a second week of record hospitalizations, some local officials eye convention centers and stadiums as potential overflow facilities.

June 26, 2020 137,624 statewide cases

Bars close again, feds continue to fund testing

Gov. Greg Abbott shuts bars down again and scales back restaurant capacity to 50%. Before this, bars were able to operate at 50% occupancy and restaurants at 75%.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decides to keep funding five of its seven community-based coronavirus testing sites in Texas.

June 30, 2020 159,986 statewide cases

Bar owners sue, elective procedures stop in South Texas

More than 30 bar owners sue Gov. Greg Abbott over his order to close bars again after he allowed them to reopen for a little more than a month.

Abbott puts a stop to elective surgeries and other procedures in Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces and Webb counties in order to preserve hospital capacity for coronavirus patients.

Plus, officials in Harris, Bexar, Dallas and Travis counties have either called on or reached out to the governor in recent days, expressing a desire to implement local restrictions for their regions.

July 2, 2020 175,977 statewide cases

Masks are required, U.S. Supreme Court won't fast-track bid to expand mail-in voting

In a reversal of his previous statements, Gov. Greg Abbott issues a statewide mask mandate as Texas scrambles to get its coronavirus surge under control.

The U.S. Supreme Court says it won't fast-track a bid by Texas Democrats to decide whether all Texas voters can vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.

July 7, 2020 210,585 statewide cases

State Fair of Texas is canceled, masks will be required in some schools

The State Fair of Texas is canceled because of ongoing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. This is the event's first cancellation since World War II.

Masks for students and teachers will be mandatory in counties with more than 20 active COVID-19 cases when public schools resume in-person classes this fall, the Texas Education Agency announces.

July 9, 2020 230,346 statewide cases

Ban on elective medical procedures is expanded

Gov. Greg Abbott expands his ban on elective medical procedures Thursday to cover more than 100 counties across much of the state.

July 10, 2020 240,111 statewide cases

More than 3,000 Texans die from COVID-19

More than 3,000 Texans have died from the coronavirus and counties are preparing for even more deaths by expanding their capacities to store bodies.

July 13, 2020 264,313 statewide cases

Texas GOP leaders opt for online convention

The Republican Party of Texas' executive committee votes to hold its statewide convention online, concluding a weekslong whirlwind of controversy and legal battles over initial plans to hold an in-person event during the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

July 16, 2020 292,656 statewide cases

No shutdown for Texas

As the number of new coronavirus cases in Texas continues to rise and hospitals grow more crowded, Gov. Greg Abbott says there is no statewide shutdown looming.

July 20, 2020 332,434 statewide cases

More than 4,000 Texans die from COVID-19

Texas reached 4,020 deaths only 10 days after crossing the 3,000 threshold.

July 24, 2020 369,826 statewide cases

Federal eviction moratorium expires

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, expires, and housing attorneys are concerned about a potential surge in evictions across Texas during the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal eviction moratorium prevented landlords from taking new eviction actions against renters who haven't paid their rent on certain federally backed properties.

July 26, 2020 381,656 statewide cases

More than 5,000 people in Texas die from COVID-19

Texas reaches another grim milestone by surpassing 5,000 deaths from the new coronavirus. In doing so, the state reported 1,000 deaths in six days, four days faster than it took to hit that total the previous time.

July 27, 2020 385,923 statewide cases

State releases nursing home COVID-19 numbers

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission releases its first list of COVID-19 cases and deaths with details about individual Texas nursing homes - after insisting for months that the information was not subject to public disclosure because of privacy laws. The numbers show that COVID-19 infections have exploded in Texas nursing homes in July, with 8,291 confirmed cases through July 27 - four times more than the number of cases recorded in all of June.

July 28, 2020 394,265 statewide cases

Food aid is extended to families

Texas families now have until Aug. 21 to apply for the Pandemic EBT card, which pays $285 for each student who received free and reduced-price meals.

Local health officials do not have the authority to shut down all schools in their vicinity while COVID-19 cases rise, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in nonbinding guidance.

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