Texas hits new virus hospitalization record, passing 12,000

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Texas hit another grim milestone Thursday when it surpassed 12,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, setting a new record high in that category for the fourth consecutive day.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office was in court trying to overturn an Austin local order that would ban dine-in eating and drinking between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. each night from Thursday until Sunday morning.

Austin officials have said they are trying to limit large social gatherings over the New Year holiday weekend to tamp down a surge in new virus infections and hospitalizations in the state capital. But Paxton said the order improperly restricts business hours in violation of a statewide order by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Texas reported 12,268 COVID patients in hospitals, an increase of 1,400 in one week. State officials also counted 349 newly-reported deaths. The Texas death toll has reported more than 26,400 fatalities.

The stark numbers keep rising as officials roll out the first vaccines in a system that has produced delays, some confusion and frustration.

Texas had about 4,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine that had to be checked for problems with cold storage requirements and some shipments had to be replaced, the Department of State Health Services said this week. Texas also had more than 144,000 doses that were expected prior to Christmas not arrive until this week, an agency spokeswoman said.

Abbott and state health Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt suggested this week that some providers were not using all their vaccines and keeping some in reserve, which several hospital groups have disputed.

According to state vaccine data, the state has received 773,000 doses and more than 282,515 people have received at least one round of the shot, through Wednesday.

At a court hearing in Austin, the state argued that Austin’s local orders are not allowed under previous statewide orders previously issued by Abbott. Texas did not object to similar orders previously put in place by other cities, notably El Paso and San Antonio.

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