AUSTIN, Texas — Coronavirus cases in Texas have risen to more than 418,00, putting the state at a higher case count than New York.
Once the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, New York now ranks fourth in total case count behind California, Florida and Texas, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Medical teams on the frontlines in Texas said that spikes in the state have taken a toll.
“It’s very hard. We’re seeing entire families in our communities ravaged by the virus,” said Dr. Martin Schwartz, who treats patients in intensive care units. “A lot of deaths inside one single family. It’s terrible.”
The main hotspot in the state has been the Rio Grande Valley, where hospitals began reaching capacity earlier this month.
Health officials say the pandemic is wreaking havoc on communities in Hidalgo County.
“It’s a tsunami what we’re seeing right now,” said Dr. Federico Vallejo, a critical care pulmonologist. He told CNN last week that he is treating up to 70 patients a day compared to the usual 15 to 20 a critical care doctor sees during a rotation.
Texas was one of the first states to reopen in May, but Gov. Greg Abbott announced a pause to any further reopening in June when cases surged. Now Texas is one of the 41 states to implement mask requirements in some form to protect against the virus’s spread.
Though many health experts stress the importance of wearing masks to protect against the spread of the virus, their use has been under debate in the public.
Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, who has frequently refused to wear a mask, has tested positive for the virus.
Gohmert told CNN last month that he didn’t wear a mask because he had been tested and he didn’t yet have the virus. “But if I get it, you’ll never see me without a mask,” he said. But he began to wear a mask more in the last two weeks he said.
Gohmert told KETK on Wednesday he may have contracted coronavirus by incorrectly wearing his mask.
“I can’t help but think that if I hadn’t been wearing a mask so much in the last 10 days or so, I really wonder if I would have gotten it,” Gohmert added. “You know, moving the mask around, getting it just right, we’re bound to put some virus on the mask that I sucked in. That’s most likely what happened.”
While wearing a mask incorrectly can expose a person to the virus, experts say it primarily spreads person to person.