Texas governor says current COVID-19 plan is A-OK despite record highs
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott insists that current strategies to combat the coronavirus are working, despite 10 straight days of record numbers of COVID-19 cases across the state.
At a June 22 press conference, Abbott said that current safety protocols — staying at home, washing your hands, staying six feet from others, and wearing a mask — were enough to curb the spread of the virus.
"Closing down Texas will always be the last option," he said.
But he cited figures that showed the virus is climbing dramatically:
- the average daily number of people testing positive at the end of May was 1,500
- the average daily number of people testing positive in the past five days of June was 3,500
"The positivity rate has gone from 4.5 percent in late May to almost 9 percent today," he said. "COVID-19 is spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas and it must be corralled. But we have strategies to reduce that without shutting Texas back down."
Those included the staying-at-home-washing-your-hands routine, as well as agencies increasing enforcement, such as the TABC's action of shutting down three overcrowded Austin bars, and counties shutting down river park operations if they become too crowded.
He said that the state was looking at increasing testing in areas that may emerge as hot spots, with 3,500 National Guard troops on active duty to help the state respond.
He stated that "COVID-19 will be in Texas until there is treatment," but that Texas "succeeded" in its early goal of preventing hospitals from being overrun.
He also acknowledged, at long last, that masks can be helpful.
"I know that some people feel that wearing a mask is inconvenient or an infringement of personal freedom, but they will help to keep Texas open," he said. "Not taking action will cause COVID to spread even worse."
But he still won't mandate masks for the state.
"Where we are in this pandemic is, if you look at growth in the number of people testing positive, all the way through early part of May, Texas was moving in a productive position," he said. "And then around the time of Memorial Day, there was an increase, necessitating that next steps be taken."
Following lockdowns across Texas that began in March, Abbott significantly expanded reopening the state on June 3.
"There is a differentiation in the spread in different parts of the state of Texas," he said. "We need to have latitude for differentiation. Some of the larger settings that have more massive spread of COVID-19 have an increased use of required masks, while other parts of the state have no COVID-19 cases. I think maintaining a level of flexibility is important."
"It would have been one thing to talk about masks in the middle part of May when the trends are going down, but it's a different thing to talk about masks in June when all the trends are going up," he said.