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Texas hits 1 million Covid-19 cases, the most in the nation

In other coronavirus news: Cuomo boosts National Guard at airports to enforce N.Y. quarantine, doomed Danish minks, and the NBA wants fans in the stands.
Medical workers treat a patient with Covid-19 in the intensive care unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston on Oct. 31.Go Nakamura / Getty Images

While the nation was focused Friday on the presidential election, Texas was quietly closing in on its 1 millionth case of Covid-19.

There were 1,000,589 confirmed cases on the books late Friday night, the latest NBC News figures showed.

Texas eclipsed California, which currently has 960,361 cases, for the lead in this sad category last month. But both states have seen a surge of new cases in the past two weeks.

New coronavirus cases were up in Texas 40 percent, and in California 31 percent, the NBC News analysis showed. And these upticks were among those that propelled the United States to a record 122,365 new cases Friday, NBC News confirmed. This beat the previous record of daily coronavirus cases which was set Thursday, a day after the nation topped 100,000 new cases for the first time.

With nearly 9.7 million cases and almost 237,000 deaths, the U.S. leads the world in both coronavirus categories, according to the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 dashboard.

Deaths in Texas were also up 10 percent over the last two weeks, for a total of 18,977 as of Friday morning, according to the analysis.

That is far less than New York, which leads the nation with 34,521 deaths. But New York was hit hard early on in the pandemic in March and April when scientists were still trying to figure out how the virus was spreading.

By contrast, 94 percent of the coronavirus cases and 91 percent of the deaths in Texas have occurred since the end of May, after Gov. Greg Abbott — at the urging of President Donald Trump — began loosening restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, the figures showed.

In other coronavirus news:

  • While daily records for new Covid-19 cases were being shattered, there has not been a formal meeting of the White House coronavirus task force since Oct. 20, NBC News' Monica Alba reported. Some members of the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, have met in smaller groups. One meeting included Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious expert whose dire warnings about the pandemic have infuriated Trump.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is deploying more members of the National Guard to the airports to help enforce the state's quarantine rules. Thirty-six states and two U.S. territories are currently on the advisory list. That means anyone arriving in New York from one of those places must quarantine for 14 days or face possible fines.“You should not land if you do not have proof of a negative test upon landing,” Cuomo said.
  • The NBA said it hopes to have at least some fans back in arenas to root for their favorites teams when the new season tips off in December.
  • Denmark said it was going ahead with plans to kill millions of minks infected with a Covid-19 mutation even after the World Health Organization said it wasn't sure if the animals posed a risk to humans. "We would rather go a step too far than take a step too little to combat Covid-19," Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said.
  • The number of Americans who have been jobless due to the pandemic for more than 26 weeks jumped to 3.6 million in October from 2.4 million the month before. And economists fear "millions of jobs across a wide range of service-sector industries might be gone forever," NBC News reported.

In response, Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze insisted in an email that the governor pursued "a strategy that proved effective in slowing the spread over the summer and containing COVID-19 while allowing businesses to safely operate."

“Governor Abbott continues to rely on the data-driven hospitalization metrics used by doctors and medical experts to help inform and guide the state’s ongoing efforts to mitigate COVID-19," Eze wrote.

In March, when Texas was still on lockdown, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick drew harsh criticism for suggesting that he and other grandparents would be willing to risk their own health and lives in order for the country to “get back to work” amid the pandemic.

“Those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves,” Patrick, a Republican, said on Fox News. “But don’t sacrifice the country.”

Abbott, however, hit the pause button on reopening the state in June as Texas hospitals were inundated with Covid-19 patients and shut down bars, which public health experts determined were the chief breeding ground for new infections.

“As I have said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10 percent, the state of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of Covid-19,” Abbott said in a statement in June. “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars.”

But Abbott didn’t issue a statewide mask mandate until July.

The World Health Organization advises governments that before reopening they must maintain a testing positivity rate of 5 percent or lower for 14 days.

The rate in Texas is currently 10.07 percent, the data shows. But it's far higher in other states like Wisconsin, which reported that a third of people (33 percent) tested over the last seven days were positive, according to that state's latest health department statistics.

Wisconsin, on Friday, also reported a record single-day high of 6,141 new Covid-19 cases and 62 more deaths.