Walker County remains as one of the most active hotspots for COVID-19 in Texas — ranking third in the state per capita, according to tracking data from the New York Times.
However, local health officials are quick to note that the massive case surve of the past few weeks comes from increased asymptomatic testing within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system. As of Thursday, there were 1,610 total cases within TDCJ’s seven local units, 75% of which remain active. An additional 194 residents have tested positive, with 107 of those cases currently active.
The case surge comes with Texas posting the fewest amount COVID-19 hospitalizations it's had in the past six weeks, ranking first in the U.S. for the most recoveries from the coronavirus, Gov. Greg Abbott said.
The state has also entered Phase III of its economic reopening.
Under Phase III, which went into effect Wednesday, all businesses will be able to operate at up to 50% capacity, with limited exceptions.
"The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe,” Abbott said in a prepared statement.
"As anticipated, the new positive cases that we are seeing are largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants,” Abbott added.
Between May 26 and June 2, over 45 percent of new cases came from jails or prisons, meat packing plants and nursing homes.
Within the TDCJ prison system there have been 71,167 offenders and 21,801 employees tested, resulting in a near 7% positive rate. There have been 42 offender deaths connected to COVID-19, with an additional 27 under investigation. There have been an additional seven employee deaths from COVID-19.
"Texans are battling a colossal challenge, but overcoming these challenges is part of who we are,” Abbott said. “I am committed to working alongside all of our entrepreneurs and small business owners to ensure they have the knowledge and tools needed to succeed. Working together, we will continue to create more jobs and strengthen our economy, and help our businesses recover."