AUSTIN, Texas (KLTV) - During a press conference Sunday evening, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he has no plans at the moment of issuing a “shelter-in-place” order that would require the state’s residents to remain in their homes unless there is a strong need to leave.
Abbott’s press conference came hours after Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statewide stay-at-home order that will go into effect at 5 p.m. on Monday.
“We’re still within 48 hours of my most recent executive orders,” Abbott said. “Let’s wait and see how effective those orders will be in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. I’m the governor of a state that has 254 counties, and most of those counties have zero coronavirus cases right now.”
Abbott pointed out that a majority of the new confirmed COVID-19 cases are popping up in metropolitan areas like Dallas, Houston, and Austin. He said what works for those areas may not be right for the more rural areas of the state.
The governor added that local government and health authorities can and already are authorized to take more strict actions if they deem those moves necessary. Abbott added that he wants to give Texans more time to adjust to and comply with his executive orders.
However, Abbott did say if Texans don’t have a pressing need to leave home like going to work at an essential job, going to the doctor or a healthcare facility, or going to the store or a gas station, they should remain at home as much as possible.
During the press conference, Abbott repeated the executive orders that he issued last week. These executive orders are basically temporary laws that will be enforced by local, county, and state officials.
According to a press release on the Office of the Texas Governor website, those orders include the following:
- Order No. 1: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, every person in Texas shall avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.
- Order No. 2: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or visiting gyms or massage parlors; provided, however, that the use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options is allowed and highly encouraged throughout the limited duration of this executive order.
- Order No. 3: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
- Order No. 4: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, schools shall temporarily close.
“I expect full compliance with these executive orders,” Abbott said. “Know this. The penalty for violating these orders is up to a $1,000 fine, up to 180 days in jail, and/or mandatory quarantine.”
Abbott said during the press conference that he has issued directives telling hospitals and other healthcare providers to cancel all elective and no-essential surgeries and procedures. Only lifesaving and essential procedures will be allowed.
By freeing up the beds that would be used for those non-essential procedures, and allowing two COVID-19 patients per room hospitals could make to 50 percent more space for incoming coronavirus patients, the governor said.
During the press conference, Abbott also talked about waiving certain Texas regulations to increase the nursing workforce, deploying the Texas Army National Guard to help health officials screen for the coronavirus or set up fully equipped medical tents to help, and setting up a strike force full of people from the private sector to expedite the statewide acquisition of more personal protection equipment for healthcare personnel and first responders and more COVID-19 testing kits.
Abbott also said he spoke with Texas manufacturers about PPE (personal protection equipment) for health care workers. They said July at the earliest.
“That’s not good enough,” Abbott said.
Abbott said he is urging the federal government to step up the production and distribution of these items.
Money isn’t a problem, its a supply problem.
During the question-and-answer portion of the press conference, Dr. John Hellerstedt, the commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, responded to a question about when he thought the COVID-19 spread would peak in Texas. He explained that it is now very clear that the coronavirus is at the “community spread" stage.
“If we do what we’ve been asked to do, we have the opportunity to dramatically limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the state of Texas,” Hellerstedt said.
Hellerstedt explained that the peak depends on Texas’ ability to prevent the illness from spreading any further. He added, “if we’re successful, that peak may be some weeks or months away.”
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