AUSTIN, Texas – Texas is nearing 15,000 deaths due to the coronavirus. It comes as the death toll in the U.S. has surpassed 200,000.

According to state figures released Tuesday, there were 77 additional deaths bringing the total to 14,994. State health officials also added more than 13,500 backlogged cases to the statewide total bringing it to 716,207.

The number of daily cases and those hospitalized have been steadily declining since July's record highs. Gov. Greg Abbott has pointed to the declining hospital rates as reason for recently loosening more coronavirus restrictions in the state.

But one of his top medical advisers says he still thinks it's too fast.

“I would prefer to go slower,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, who’s also a former FDA Commissioner and now works as a health policy expert at Duke University. “We know that being in close quarters indoors does account for a lot of the case spread. I’d like to make sure as Texas does take further steps to reopen, that we can keep the cases going in a downward direction. It is so much better for the economy and for students, for everyone, if the rate of cases in our neighborhoods is low. We’re not there yet. It’s better than it was, much better than it was then back in the summer. But still, a lot of potential for further outbreaks.”

McClellan also said in an interview on Capital Tonight there’s been a lot of progress on vaccines but it’s still unknown whether the vaccines in development really work. He noted even once a vaccine is approved, it’s going to take some time before it’s available for the general public.