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Local Texas leaders encourage sheltering in place as coronavirus cases spike

A pedestrian walks past a bar established in 1933 after Los Angeles County officials closed it for the second time following a spike in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles on August 10. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

July 4 (UPI) -- The leaders of two Texas counties where coronavirus cases have overwhelmed hospitals have encouraged residents to shelter in place to avoid further strain on healthcare resources.

The county judges stopped short of issuing official stay-at-home orders, but both gave dire warnings as COVID-19 cases soared in the state.

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Starr County Judge Eloy Vera said there have been 18 deaths in his county and two "severely ill" patients had to be flown to hospitals in bigger cities -- Dallas and San Antonio. He issued a Level 1 severe threat alert in the southern Texas county.

"The local and valley hospitals are at full capacity and have no more beds available," Vera said.

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"I urge all of our residents to please shelter-in-place, wear face coverings, practice social distancing and avoid gatherings."

Texas reported 6,971 new COVID-19 cases Friday, down from 7,555 Thursday, according to the state's Department of Health Services.

After a recent spike in cases, Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday ordered residents to wear masks or face coverings while in public settings.

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In neighboring Hidalgo County, Judge Richard Cortez issued a public safety alert. He encouraged residents to shelter in place and avoid gatherings.

Hidalgo County has the fifth-highest number of active cases in the state, with 2,943. It's had 57 deaths from the virus.

Overall, the United States has had more than 2.8 million confirmed cases and 129,564 deaths from the virus. The country reported its highest single-day increase of cases Thursday with more than 55,000, according to The New York Times' tracker.

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Friday's number of new cases -- 53,737 -- was down slightly from Thursday's but comparable.

Several states have reported record cases in recent days, including Texas, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Mississippi and Georgia.

Florida reported 11,458 new coronavirus cases Saturday, up from 9,488 Friday, continuing a sharp increase in new cases that began in June.

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In Georgia, where there was 2,604 new cases Friday, some 1,400 healthcare workers have signed a petition asking Gov. Brian Kemp to increase efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. They're asking him to shutter bars and nightclubs and ban all indoor gatherings of 25 people or more.

"During the past week we have seen a sharp spike in cases that cannot be accounted for by increased testing," the group's letter to Kemp said.

"We are also seeing a very troubling increase in hospitalizations that, if continuing, will overwhelm our healthcare infrastructure, not only in metro Atlanta but also in rural Georgia. Georgia is simply not prepared for a surge in cases and hospitalizations. You have the power to do much more to save lives and protect our citizens from avoidable illness."

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