Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said this week that the coronavirus is spreading there “at an unacceptable rate” — but a full shut down “will always be the last option” for the Lone Star State.
Abbott struck a newly urgent tone during his Monday press conference at the Texas Capitol in Austin, The Texas Tribune reported.
“To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in the state of Texas, and it must be corralled,” Abbott said. “We have several strategies to reduce the spread without shutting Texas back down, but it is up to all of us to do our part to protect ourselves and others.”
For 11 consecutive days, Texas broke its own record of the number of people hospitalized with the virus. On Monday, that number was 3,711.
The state also saw its highest daily case count — 4,430 — on Saturday, according to the Tribune.
The governor did not introduce any new policies or halt the re-opening of Texas businesses — but instead emphasized voluntary guidelines encouraging the public to use hand sanitizer, practice social distancing and wear a face mask, and urged those who are sick or at risk to stay home.
He also promised that the state could address the rising numbers “without having to return to stay-at-home policies.”
“Texans have shown that we don’t have to choose between jobs and health—we can have both,” he said. “We can protect lives while also restoring livelihoods. Together, we will keep Texans safe and we will keep our state open for business.”
Abbott’s strategies include ramped-up enforcement in places that attract large crowds, such as bars, “surging testing in areas that may be hot spots,” and coordinating with hospitals to make sure they can handle an influx of coronavirus patients, according to the report.
He also emphasized the importance of wearing masks, according to the local outlet.
Texas Gov. Greg AbbottLynda M. Gonzalez/Getty Images
“I know that some people feel that wearing a mask is inconvenient or is like an infringement of freedom, but I also know that wearing a mask will help us to keep Texas open,” Abbott said.
But he backed away from the idea of a statewide mask mandate, saying that flexibility needs to be in place for different parts of the large state.
Democrats slammed the governor for failing to take decisive action, as well as for ignoring concerns that the state is re-opening too quickly.
“Instead, the governor decided to listen to his fringe right-wing base over the advice of medical experts,” state Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement obtained by the Tribune.
A total of 117,790 coronavirus cases and 2,207 deaths have been reported statewide as of Tuesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.