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Texas county asks residents to cancel holiday gatherings in emergency text message

Texas county asks residents to cancel holiday gatherings in emergency text message
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Officials in Harris County, Texas, sent out an emergency text to 4.7 million residents Tuesday urging them to forgo Thanksgiving holiday plans and get tested for COVID-19.

The message comes as Harris County Public Health reported 6,404 active cases in the area Tuesday.

“This is not the year … to have a great holiday gathering, a great outing at the bar, restaurant. It’s just not the time,” said Harris County's top Judge Lina Hidalgo, local CBS affiliate KTVT reported.

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Harris County has already recorded a total of 85,458 cases since the outset of the pandemic and 966 total fatalities related to the virus.

Hidalgo noted the number of average new daily cases in the county has increased by 250 percent since September and the current positivity rate is 8.2 percent.

Hidalgo has been critical of the Texas government and its limitations on local jurisdictions' abilities to implement additional pandemic safety measures.

She encouraged residents to ask more of their government, adding, “That’s why we need the state to step in and lead or get out of the way and let us lead."

Citing El Paso's current COVID-19 crisis and the city's lack of available medical beds for patients, Hidalgo underscored her concerns that the situation could become just as bad in Houston if regular holiday plans continue unfettered.

“I don’t want that to happen here, and that’s why we’re having this conversation to try and avoid that fate," she said.

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Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D) confirmed medical facilities in his jurisdiction were receiving patients transported from El Paso due to the border city's overwhelmed medical system.

“We have patients in our hospitals right now that don’t have the virus but needed hospitalizations, and they are here from El Paso because there was no room,” Adler said.

Other states across the nation, such as New York and Oregon, have resorted to imposing strict limitations on the number of people allowed to gather in homes, meaning many families will be having smaller Thanksgiving dinners this year.

In New York, groups of 10 or fewer are limited to home gatherings, and Oregon residents are told groups cannot exceed six people in private home gatherings.