COVID-19 in Texas: State hits 5,000 new cases, 4,000 hospitalizations for first time

Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that Texas has surpassed 5,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day for the first time, another troubling milestone.

Officials reported 5,489 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. The announcement comes days after Texas eclipsed 4,000 new cases for the first time just last weekend.

Tuesday was also the first time Texas saw more than 4,000 hospitalizations due to coronavirus, 4,092. Texas had passed the 3,000 hospitalization mark last Friday, less than a week ago.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday  that "the next couple weeks are going to be critical" in Texas and other states that are trying to curtail an alarming spike in new cases. 

"There remain a lot of people in the state of Texas who think that the spread of COVID-19 is not a challenge," Abbott told Bryan television station KBTX. "The coronavirus is serious. It's spreading." 

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Abbott is now emphasizing face covering more strenuously than at any point he has during the pandemic. He has not taken new actions that many Democrats have called for -- including making face covering mandatory -- but hinted Tuesday that new measures could be coming. 

Abbott has stressed that Texas still has plenty of hospital beds, but some of the state's largest medical centers are starting to carve out new spaces to manage rising caseloads. Texas Children's Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in the United States, said Tuesday it was admitting adult patients across its campuses to free up more hospital bed space in the Houston area.

In another development, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department said late Monday that a youth at the Giddings State School tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first confirmed case of the virus at a Texas juvenile detention facility. 

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, and be fatal.

RELATED: Interactive map of Texas COVID-19 cases