85 babies have tested positive for COVID-19 in 1 Texas county

NUECES COUNTY, Texas -- A total of 85 babies have tested positive for COVID-19 in Nueces County, Texas, the county’s health director said on Friday, July 17.

In a COVID-19 public health update streamed on Corpus Christi government social media pages, Annette Rodriguez, director of public health for Nueces County, said that as of July 17, more than 80 babies in the county have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“We currently have 85 babies under the age of one here in Nueces County that have all tested positive for COVID-19,” Rodriguez said during the livestream. An additional media report indicated that the babies were under age 2. FOX has reached out to the county to confirm the ages of the infected babies and will update when they respond.

RELATED: Can a pregnant woman spread the coronavirus to her fetus?

"Please help us to stop the spread of this disease,“ Rodriguez said. "Stay social distanced from others. Stay protected, wear a mask when in public. And for everyone else, please do your best to stay home.”

Also during the Friday update, Corpus Christi City Manager Peter Zazoni announced that for the past week, the average number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases per day for the county was a little over 350.

Zazoni highlighted that Nueces County has one of the fastest-growing COVID-19 infection rates in the state.

As of Saturday, a total of 8,407 COVID-19 cases were confirmed and eight new deaths were reported in Nueces County, bringing its total COVID-19 death count to 90, according to the county’s health department.

The news of the 85 infected babies follows a report from earlier this week regarding scientists’ uncertainty on the impact of COVID-19 in children.

Evidence behind what role children play in the coronavirus pandemic and how it affects them is inconclusive, despite the Trump administration’s position that the science is clear. Several studies suggest but don’t prove that children are less likely to become infected and more likely to have only mild symptoms. Many kids have no symptoms, and it’s unclear how easily they can spread the virus to others.

The Associated Press also reported this week on how evidence has been growing that the coronavirus can spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

Researchers in Italy studied 31 women with COVID-19 who delivered babies in March and April and found signs of the virus in several samples of umbilical cord blood, the placenta and, in one case, breast milk. But this sort of testing can just detect bits of genetic material — it doesn't mean there is virus capable of causing infection in those places.

Meanwhile, research led by the National Institutes of Health gives a possible reason for why fetuses aren’t infected more often: cells in the placenta rarely make the two tools that the coronavirus typically uses to gain entry. In contrast, they found plenty of what Zika and another type of virus use.

The report of the 85 babies confirmed to have COVID-19 in Nueces County is the latest troubling pandemic development for the Lone Star State.

In addition to states like Florida and Arizona, Texas has become a COVID-19 hotspot in recent weeks. The state reported a new daily record for virus deaths on Friday with 3,865 and recorded more than 10,000 new confirmed cases for the fourth consecutive day, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services’ website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted three national forecasts that suggested an increase in the number of new hospitalizations per day in the U.S. over the next four weeks, while three other forecasts predict more hospitalization rates. By August 3, the forecasts estimate between 2,000 to 10,000 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per day in the United States.

“I’ve never seen anything like this COVID surge,” Dr. Alison Haddock of Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, said to the Associated Press. “We’re doing our best, but we’re not an ICU.”

Patients are waiting “hours and hours” to get admitted, she said, and the least sick people are lying in beds in halls to make room for most seriously ill.

Confirmed cases around the world have surpassed 14 million, and deaths neared 600,000, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. On Saturday, the World Health Organization, which also tracks the virus, reported a single-day record of new infections — over 259,000 worldwide — for the second day in a row. The true toll of the pandemic is thought to be even higher, in part because of shortages in testing and shortcomings in data collection.

The Associated Press and Stephanie Weaver contributed to this report.