As the delta COVID-19 variant continues to spread and battles over mask and vaccine mandates rage, Texas and Florida over the last week accounted for nearly 40% of new hospitalizations for the virus across the country, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday.
“In the past week, Florida has had more COVID-19 cases than all 30 states wth the lowest case rates, combined,” Zients said. “Florida and Texas alone have accounted for nearly 40% of hospitalizations across the country.”
In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order threatening to cut funding from school districts that defy a statewide ban on classroom mask mandates. He’s now suggesting his office could direct officials to withhold pay from superintendents who impose such rules anyway.
A ban on mask mandates in schools in Florida is now facing a legal challenge in a Tallahassee courtroom.
The mask ban in Texas is being similarly challenged. San Antonio, Bexar Country, Austin and Dallas Country are some of the local governments with mask mandates in place in defiance of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders banning them.
Some of Texas’ largest school districts are defying Abbott’s orders as well. Austin ISD, Houston ISD, Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD are just some of the districts with mask mandates in place. On Thursday, San Marcos CISD and Del Valle ISD were added to the growing list.
Gov. Abbott this week said that any school district or government official in violation of his executive orders banning mask mandates will be met with a court challenge.
“Any school district, public university, or local government official that decides to defy GA-38—which prohibits gov't entities from mandating masks—will be taken to court,” Gov. Abbott wrote. “The path forward relies on personal responsibility—not government mandates.”
As of Thursday, according to state data, 10,791 Texans are being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals. There are only 321 available ICU beds statewide. The state on Thursday added 14,920 cases of the virus, 11,975 of which are confirmed and 2,945 of which are probable. The state reported an additional 120 fatalities attributed to the virus on Thursday.
In Florida, according to Johns Hopkins University data, 89% of ICU beds are currently occupied and 84% of all hospital beds, including ICU beds, are currently occupied.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.