Texas Hot Spot Counties
  COVID-19 Per 100,000 Population
Ranked on Cases with 2016 Vote
    Cases Trump
1 Moore 2,695 75%
2 Potter 1,870 69%
3 Titus 905 69%
4 Deaf Smith 837 69%
5 Panola 812 81%
6 Donley 783 84%
7 Mason 724 81%
8 Shelby 720 79%
9 Sherman 682 86%
10 Jones 681 81%
11 Walker 655 65%
12 Washington 550 74%
13 Parmer 537 77%
14 Randall 476 80%
15 Gray 438 88%
16 Gonazles 437 72%
17 Ochiltree 432 88%
18 Castro 417 71%
19 Nacogdoches 391 65%
20 Red River 386 76%
21 Houston 363 74%
22 S. Augustine 352 73%
23 Harrison 342 71%
24 Dallas 341 35%
26 Grimes 353 74%
27 Camp 338 70%
25 Hansford 329 89%
28 Dawson 309 74%
29 Dallam 306 82%
30 Coryell 302 67%
31 Wheeler 289 91%
32 Cottle 288 83%
33 El Paso 283 26%
34 Lamar 269 78%
35 Tarrant 239 52%
36 Hardin 238 86%
37 Harris 234 42%
38 Swisher 228 76%
39 Travis 228 27%
40 Brazoria 226 60%
41 Grayson 224 75%
42 Galveston 223 60%
43 Roberts 221 95%
44 Lubbock 216 66%
45 Fort Bend 214 45%
46 Angelina 201 72%
47 Hartley 196 89%
48 Jefferson 195 49%
49 Webb 187 23%
50 Frio 182 42%
Texas COVID-19 Deaths
Cases & Deaths Per 100,000 Population
Ranked on Coronavirus Deaths
    Cases Deaths
1 Panola 812 90.35
2 Cottle 288 72.10
3 Deaf Smith 837 69.02
4 Washington 550 65.63
5 Moore 2,695 58.83
6 Oldham 182 47.30
7 Walker 654 37.37
8 Hansford 329 36.52
9 Hartley 196 35.14
10 Harrison 337 34.50
11 Red River 378 32.71
12 Nacogdoches 391 25.92
13 Fisher 182 25.78
14 Shelby 720 23.52
15 Potter 1,863 21.58
16 Brown 182 21.02
17 Ochiltree 432 19.86
18 Lamar 268 18.15
19 Martin 52 17.56
20 Lynn 85 17.17
21 Crosby 52 17.00
22 Lubbock 215 16.38
23 Calhoun 182 13,80
24 Matagorda 182 13.57
25 San Augustine 352 12.12
Major Counties Deaths
Cases & Deaths Per 100,000 Population
Ranked on Coronavirus Deaths
    Cases Deaths
1 Potter 1,870 21.58
2 Lubbock 216 16.38
3 Jefferson 195 10.53
4 Rockwall 150 10.33
5 Galveston 223 9.55
6 Brazos 193 8.53
7 Dallas 341 8.06
8 Cameron 165 7.79
9 Midland 72 7.27
10 Tarrant 239 7.01
11 Webb 187 6.91
12 Ellis 148 6.91
13 El Paso 283 6.90
14 Travis 228 6.85
15 Fort Bend 214 5.36
16 Harris 234 4.73
17 Randall 476 4.46
18 Comal 55 4.26
19 Montgomery 150 4.03
20 Williamson 100 3.84
21 Taylor 167 3.67
22 Denton 142 3.59
23 Bexar 122 3.52
24 Collin 115 3.40
25 Brazoria 226 3.31





May 26, 2020

Trump Could Carry Texas Panhandle and Lose
Election There Amid Potential Rural Backlash

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

The Stratford Elks fell short last fall with a semi-finals loss in a quest for their first state football championship since they captured the 1A title back in 2008 with a team that was ranked higher than perennial big-city powerhouse Austin Westlake.

But the high school team in the tiny town at the top of the Texas Panhandle plays in 2A now and will be tested from the start with a home opener in September against the Bushland Falcons - a 3A school from Amarillo that's just as hungry after years of playoff heartbreaks.

The Elks will hope to have some fans in the stands as one of the two best teams every year in Sherman County. There's no guarantee that the game will ever be played - however - in a part of the state that's been brutalized more than any other by the coronavirus. Sherman ranks among the top 10 in Texas in COVID-19 infections while the Falcons hail from Potter County that is second in the state in confirmed cases in the northern half of the Amarillo area. Moore County - the coronavirus crisis epicenter in Texas - is squeezed between Potter and Sherman counties.

The Friday night lights will be glowing as a result against a potential backdrop of political uncertainty at the top of the Lone Star State where President Donald Trump was more popular in his first White House race than he'd been in any other place in the nation.

The Panhandle could be Trump country no more based on the bar that was set in 2016 if the people there are inclined to blame the president for the suffering and grief that his policies during the pandemic could have exacerbated substantially.

No one expects the state's most conservative region to go blue anytime soon. But the voters in the northwestern stretch of Texas could end up swinging the national election in November to the Democrats if Trump's support goes down there by a significant amount even if he sweeps the area like Republicans have been doing for decades.

Trump increased the odds for coronavirus infections in the chunk of Texas that's anchored by Amarillo with an economy that revolves on agriculture and the meat packing industry that's the largest employer there.

When the virus that had emerged initially in the state's largest city triggered outbreaks in April at beef and pork processing facilities, Trump used his power under the Defense Protection Act to order the plants to remain open despite the dangers such a move posed to the workers and their neighbors in an area that's the epitome of rural America.

The Republicans in Austin watched for weeks as the coronavirus terrorized the northern half of West Texas before Governor Greg Abbott sent teams with emergency and health officials to state's hottest spots to start testing the employees who hadn't already been infected.

The state's belated intervention in a crisis that local governments and rural hospitals hadn't been equipped to handle has appeared to get the outbreak in the Panhandle under control for the time being at least. But the surge response teams started showing up after the disease started peaking in the area where the coronavirus has claimed at least 69 lives in 11 counties within a 100-mile radius of Amarillo.

Rural health care facilities that had been struggling to stay afloat financially had already been bracing for Trump tax changes that they feared would culminate in a record number of small-town hospitals going out of business.

Trump didn't win many friends among officials in sparsely populated areas when he declared last month that rural towns and counties could reopen without haste amid the assertion that the coronavirus had bypassed them like he and other GOP leaders had predicted at the outbreak's outset.

The president issued the order that prevented meat packing plants from closing temporarily less than two weeks after informing rural residents that they could be getting back to life as normal without fear of the virus that had been spiking in Moore County when he'd assured them that they were no longer at risk. The dramatic coronavirus surge through the beef packing factories in the Panhandle and chicken processing plants clear across the state in East texas caught state and federal officials by surprise - and the industry remained highly vulnerable amid a shortage of personal protection equipment they'd hope to get before Trump refused to invoke the Defense Production Act to force companies to start producing PPE on an emergency basis.

The messages from the White House and the statehouse in Austin had been mixed at times and flat out wrong at others. State and federal officials had made a historically bad call when they suggested that the coronavirus would only be a threat in urban areas. This made it much harder for local officials in rural locations to get folks to go along with social distancing and to comply with restrictions that Abbott had extended statewide a week or two after mayors and county judges in the larger cities had imposed them in the second half of March.

The false sense of security made it less likely for people in West Texas and other rural locations to have their guards up in the infant stages of the pandemic when at least two people who lived in Levelland and Vega died from COVID-19 infections that they were believed to have contracted at a high school basketball playoff game on the same day in early March that Austin Mayor Steve Adler cancelled the South By Southwest film and music festival.

The early misreads and subsequent nonchalance in rural communities complicated efforts to secure kits for diagnostic tests that have only been administered outside of state-targeted meat packing plants to people who'd already fallen ill with standard coronavirus symptoms before testing confirmed the self-diagnosing.

The behemoth JBS plant in the Moore County hamlet of Cactus is 20 miles from Stratford where the high school football team would have a better shot at a win in their season debut in September if they're as good as the folks at the courthouse there had been at keeping the score down in one of the few if not the only Texas county that's had the COVID-19 case count go south.

The number of infections that Sherman County has confirmed stood at 23 for almost two weeks before two were reversed during the Memorial Day weekend when officials added two to the diagnostic testing tally for a grand total of 26 since the virus arrived with four in one day midway through April.

The number of cases that Sherman subtracted is the same as the total that officials in nearby Miami have recorded as the only incorporated town in Roberts County - the smallest in the state where the virus has officially surfaced. Two of the three people that had been tested for the coronavirus in Roberts County before the holiday weekend had tested positive midway through April and had recovered early this month. The Roberts viral test tally rose from three to four on Memorial Day.

The Republican governor made testing a priority in the past two weeks amid the goal of having less than 6 percent test positive. Abbott might be dismayed to learn that almost 74 percent of 212 people who've been tested for the coronavirus in Deaf Smith County had the disease like most had probably anticipated. Deaf Smith where Hereford is halfway from Amarillo to the New Mexico line ranks four in the state in coronavirus cases per capita and fourth in deaths.

Trump claimed almost 95 percent of the vote in Roberts County while settling for 86 percent in Sherman and 89 percent on average in 13 counties in the Panhandle that rank among the top 50 in the state in coronavirus cases per capita.

Moore County on the southern Sherman border has a higher rate of COVID-19 infections than all of the boroughs in New York City with the exception of the Bronx. While NYC has had more than 10 times as many COVID-19 deaths than the entire Lone Star State, every life that the virus takes in the part of Texas that's crowning it could be a foreshadowing of the novel kind of problems that Trump could be facing in his re-election bid as a consequence of actions that he's taken during the pandemic that proved the president and other prognosticators dead wrong when it surged across the rural landscape.

Trump has to win Texas to keep his hopes for a second term alive. While the election that's still six months away is impossible to predict as states reopen amid expert forecasts for a second wave in the fall, Trump could be in trouble if his support in the Panhandle takes a dip in November and the battle with Democrat Joe Biden is close across the rest of the state as a contagion casualty at a time when stranger things have become par for the course.


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