TEXAS — The Austin-Travis County region on Tuesday returned to Stage 3 of public health risk-based COVID-19 guidelines. It was the latest sign that the situation in Texas has improved a great deal in recent weeks.

What You Need To Know

  • Texas is approaching 70,000 COVID-19 deaths. Johns Hopkins University has the current death toll in Texas at 67,044

  • California surpassed 70,000 deaths attributed to the virus on Monday 

  • Overall, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are down significantly in Texas 

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced a new executive order prohibiting any entity, including private businesses, from enacting a vaccine mandate 

Still, according to data reported by Johns Hopkins University, the state is approaching 70,000 deaths attributed to the virus.

Researchers there as of Tuesday put the death toll in Texas at 67,044. They put the current testing positivity rate at 12.11%.

The Texas Department of State Health Services on Monday reported 2,143 new cases of the virus, 443 new probable cases and just two new deaths.

The state additionally reports 6,211 Texans are currently hospitalized with the virus, which is roughly half of what it was reporting a month ago. There are currently 148 pediatric patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Texas.

The country’s most populous state, California, surpassed 70,000 COVID-19 deaths on Monday. California also has the lowest rate of new cases among all states.

Data collected by Johns Hopkins University showed the state with 70,132 deaths by midday Monday. It’s the most in the nation, surpassing Texas by about 3,000 and Florida by 13,000, although California’s per capita fatality rate of 177 per 100,000 people is well below the overall U.S. rate of 214.

Texas is approaching the 70,000 mark as Gov. Greg Abbott again clamps down on COVID-19 protections. On Monday, he issued an executive order to prohibit any entity, including private business, from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on workers and called on state lawmakers to pass a similar ban into law.

The move comes as the Biden administration is set to issue rules requiring employers with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated or test weekly for the coronavirus. Several major companies, including Texas-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, have said they would abide by the federal mandate.

“No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19,” Abbott wrote in his order.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.