As Texas recoils some from its reopening plan, Gov. Greg Abbott urged the state’s residents on June 28 to go back to the basics of washing hands, wearing face coverings and maintaining safe distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus.
During a televised press conference at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Abbott, along with Vice President Mike Pence and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, talked about the necessity of wearing a face covering in Texas and other states where cases are quickly rising.
Coronavirus cases in the state have taken “a very swift and dangerous turn over the past few weeks,” said Abbott, who closed bars and reduced dining facility capacities back to 50% on June 26. He also closed all floating and tubing facilities and paused further reopening of the state. Elective surgeries are no longer available in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties, as coronavirus-related hospitalizations are rising in the areas of San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Austin.
The governor said the concern beyond the number of cases is in the positivity rate, which he said has increased from 4.27% on May 26 to well over 13% on June 28. Daily cases have also increased from 2,000 per day to more than 5,000 per day. On June 28, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 5,357 new cases, the sixth straight day over 5,000.
“The positivity rate shows a measurement,” Abbott said. “Over 10% would be an alarm to rein in the spread of COVID-19.”
Several cities and counties throughout Texas have enacted face covering mandates. No such guidance has come from the state or federal governments. While saying the economy needs to reopen to allow Texans to put food on the table and pay rent, Abbott also asked residents to stay home when possible.
“Don’t go out unless you need to go out,” Abbott said at the press conference.
Pence, visiting Texas for a “ground report” with the governor and his team on Sunday, said residents should listen to their local health officials when it comes to slowing the spread of coronavirus. He also encouraged Texans to wears masks where social distancing cannot be maintained.
“We’re with you, and we’re going to stay with you,” Pence told Abbott. “Texas and your health care system will have the supplies to meet this moment.”
Birx supported the push for wearing face coverings, saying new information confirms it protects the wearer from spreading and possibly contracting the disease.
According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas has 148,728 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,393 fatalities as of June 28.