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AUSTIN — Texas passed a grim milestone of more than 6,100 deaths caused by the coronavirus, with 313 newly-reported fatalities Wednesday.

The stark figures pushed Texas' death total to 6,190 since the state recorded its first COVID-19 death in early March. Death tolls escalated rapidly in recent weeks as the state saw a surge of newly confirmed cases and hospitalizations in June and July. Texas passed the 6,000 deaths mark the same day the U.S. passed 150,000 deaths, the most of any country in the pandemic.

Texas also reported 9,595 COVID-19 patients in the hospital Wednesday and 9,042 newly confirmed cases, the most in nearly a week. The true number of cases in Texas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

The state's rolling rate of positive tests continued a slow decline as it fell to 12.6%, its lowest mark in more than a month.

Texas is already one of the nation's virus hot spots and Gov. Greg Abbott has said he's concerned that last weekend's hit from Hurricane Hanna across South Texas cause more virus spread if families or friends gathered in groups to ride out the storm or evacuate.

State health officials changed how they compiled fatality data this week by using the cause of death listed on death certificates, instead of waiting for local and regional public health authorities to report them. Death certificates are required by law to be filed within 10 days.

Only deaths directly attributed to the COVID-19 virus are counted. This method does not include deaths of people who had COVID-19 but died of an unrelated cause, health officials said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Earlier this week, three 85-person U.S. Army Reserve medical task forces were deployed to help hard-hit areas in South Texas, supporting hospitals in Corpus Christi, Victoria, Harlingen and Edinburg. Those teams join three other active-duty Army medical task forces and five Navy medical teams that arrived in Texas earlier this month.

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