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Social distancing matters. Here is how to do it and how it can help curb the COVID-19 pandemic.


AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he will no longer listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious disease experts, as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge in Texas.

“Fauci said today that he’s concerned about states like Texas that skipped over certain things,” Patrick told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Tuesday. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We haven’t skipped over anything. The only thing I’m skipping over is listening to him.”

Hours before Patrick’s remarks, state health officials reported unprecedented numbers: more than 6,500  new cases of COVID-19 and more than 6,000 hospitalizations.

Patrick was referring to Fauci’s remarks to federal lawmakers Tuesday, telling them he’s concerned about a “disturbing surge” of infections in Texas, Florida and Arizona.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, added that some states may have moved too quickly and skipped over checkpoints in the White House’s guide for reopening.

“He has been wrong every time on every issue,” Patrick said. “I don’t need his advice anymore.”

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The White House guidelines for reopening include a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period or a downward trajectory in the same time period of positive tests as a percentage of total tests.

Texas does not meet either guideline.

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Responding to reports that hospitals in some parts of the state had nearly reaching capacity, Gov. Greg Abbott suspended elective surgeries at hospitals in four more Texas counties Tuesday.

And warning of a “massive outbreak” last week, Abbott also paused further reopening plans for Texas, closing bars and reducing restaurant dining room capacity.

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‘The worst thing we could do is lock down Texas again’

Since Memorial Day, the state has broken record after record in the number of new cases reported each day, and the state’s positive test rate reached more than 14% Monday. Abbott said a rate over 10% would be cause for concern.

That number was less than 6% one month ago.

Patrick said he agreed with Abbott’s latest plans to tighten restrictions in the state, particularly for bars.

“We stepped back on the bars, which I think was the right decision,” Patrick said. “In my view, the worst thing we could do is lock down Texas again.”

But Patrick argued that Texas’ low death rate shows the state doesn’t need to lock down again.

“We’ve had 2,424 people die and New York has had over 31,000. Even California has had almost three times as much as Texas, and … those two states have been locked down the whole time while we have been open,” Patrick said. “So locking down doesn’t work. If it did, those two states would be doing better than Texas.”

State health officials reported 21 new coronavirus-related fatalities Tuesday. The seven-day average death rate has hovered around 30 deaths a day over the lpst four days.

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In a call hosted by the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday, state Rep. Donna Howard, a former nurse and Democrat from Austin, blasted Patrick over his remarks, noting that death data lags by several weeks before health experts can understand the full impact of reopening.

“Time and time again, (Republicans) go back to ideology and determine that the Legislature is going to be practicing medicine rather than the doctors,” she said, adding that it’s a “really irresponsible way to deal with it.”

Ingraham, sharing a quote from an unnamed executive of a chain of Texas emergency clinics, argued that intensive care units are actually filled with non-coronavirus patients.

“It’s just the media misreporting information,” Patrick responded. “Most people in the ICU are not there because of COVID.”

State health officials do not report how many COVID-19 patients are in ICUs. There are 1,405 available ICU beds across the state, although the numbers are much more stark when broken down by region.

In the trauma service region that includes Nueces and 11 other counties, only nine ICU beds are available, according to the state data.

And in Austin, the area’s three health care systems said Tuesday that the 483 staffed ICU beds in the area are 80% occupied, leaving about 97 available beds.

Follow reporter Nicole Cobler on Twitter: @nicolecobler

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