Gov. Abbott warns against meetings if Texas passes 500K Coronavirus cases – CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Texas surpassed 500,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus Tuesday when Gov. Greg Abbott suggested family and neighborhood gatherings are behind a sharp increase in the rate of positive tests, which has climbed to record levels just as schools begin to reopen across the state.

He also went on to say that more testing in Texas is likely after declining in recent weeks, a trend seen in the U.S. even as dead mountains.

Texas reported more than 1,400 new deaths last week, including 220 on Tuesday.

Although health officials say there are encouraging signs in Texas – in particular hospital enrollment levels that have fallen more than 30% since the peak of July – infection rates have been on a slow rise.

Dallas County reports 30 more coronavirus deaths, but new cases drop below 300

As of Monday, an average of one in five coronavirus tests in Texas had returned positive over the previous seven days, the highest level since the pandemic began.

“There’s a reason why this happens, I believe, and that is that some people feel like they’re just with family members,” Abbott told reporters in Victoria, who in July had a turnout. “And that turns out to be not the case.”

The rising infection rate comes as tests in Texas have dropped, with the seven-day average falling below 30,000 on Tuesday for the first time since June, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Abbott said higher tests in July were the result of “surge tests” in hot spots and nursing homes and suggested more would come, including 50,000 additional tests in Harris County earlier this week.

In Austin, health officials say tests in July dropped dramatically from more than 6,000 a week, but said the reason was a decline in demand. Widespread testing is considered essential for managing the outbreak, as the US surpassed 5 million confirmed infections this month.

Some of the decline in testing in the past few weeks nationwide was expected after overdue commercial labs urged doctors to concentrate on their patients at the highest risk.

But some health and government officials have seen growing public frustration over waiting times and declining demand

“We are seeing what is now being seen in many parts of the country and that is a significant decrease in the tests that are being done,” said Mark Escott, the Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority. “This is not because tests are not available, it’s because fewer people are signing up for tests.”

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)