June 22, 2020
Governor Holds Off on New Restrictions Amid Surge
with Vow of More Testing that Trump Wants to End
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
Texas Governor Greg Abbott refused to impose a statewide mark order on Monday despite an alarming coronavirus resurgence that he said could be contained with the help of an escalation in testing that President Donald Trump wants to reduce.
While the Republican governor ramped up a pitch for face-coverings in public, he suggested at a pandemic press briefing that voluntary compliance on masks and other COVID-19 protocols would be just as effective as new or resurrected restrictions that would slow the fast-tracking reopening that he's been directing.
Abbott had effectively acknowledged last week, however, that the personal responsibility strategy hadn't been working as a result of a collective disregard for safety standards by young adults in Texas.
"Closing down Texas again will always be the last option," Abbott declared without completely shutting the door to such a move.
After claiming incorrectly for a month that the state had the virus under control, the governor acknowledged today that the spread has escalated dramatically in June with about 3,500 new cases a day on average compared to less than half that amount in the second half of May.
The coronavirus was starting to spike in the wake of Memorial Day weekend protests and parties when the governor announced Phase 3 of the reopening with an antiquated claim about the contagion being isolated to meat packing facilities, nursing homes and prisons.
Texas has broken the daily record for new virus cases seven times in the past 24 days while shattering the mark four times since Abbott initiated Phase 3 sooner than expected less than three weeks ago. The had its second highest new infection total in a single day on Sunday with 3,866 more positive tests.
"COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas and it must be corralled," Abbott said.
Abbott noted that some cities and counties have adopted mask requirements since he informed them last week that they could have implemented them in May when he'd led them to believe that he wouldn't allow them.
Abbott noted that he'd said in the early stages of the reopening that the state would need to have ample hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients and a testing positivity rate on a steady decline to prevent a return to the statewide stay-at-home order that he'd had in place throughout the month of April.
But the governor continued to play down fears about a hospital bed shortage - saying that Texas still has an abundance of space for in-patient treatment of coronavirus infections despite two weeks of daily records in hospitalizations and intensive care units that are full in some parts of the state.
Abbott has justified the speed of the reopening based in significant part on a low testing positivity rate in early May. But after hitting a low point late last month, the percentage of people who've had infections diagnosed as been on the rise for several weeks in Texas that ranks 45th in the nation in testing positivity with a rate that had surpassed 10 percent on Sunday after being less than half that amount four weeks ago.
more to come ...