Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blames people in their 20s for the latest increases in coronavirus

Gov. Greg Abbott warned that if bars are violating the state’s reopening guidelines their liquor licenses could be suspended.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blames people in their 20s for the latest increases in coronavirus
Customers wait in line to enter Chupacabra Cantina in downtown Austin as Texas bars reopened on May 22, 2020. (Source: Jordan Vonderhaar/The Texas Tribune)

AUSTIN, Texas (The Texas Tribune) - Texans under the age of 30 are testing positively for the new coronavirus at a higher rate, leading to a recent spike in the number of cases in the state, Gov. Greg Abbott said during a press conference addressing hospital capacity on Tuesday.

“There are certain counties where a majority of the people who are tested positive in that county are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to the bar type settings,” Abbott said during the conference. “That is the case in Lubbock County, Bexar County, Cameron County.”

Abbott said that it’s hard to tell where those people contracted the virus, but it could be from a Memorial Day setting, bars, some other type of social gathering.

Abbott also referenced the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s recent warning to bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, that if they did not follow COVID-19 guidelines, their license would be suspended for 30 or 60 days.

“There have been pictures that I have seen and others have seen about these bar type settings where clearly the standards are not being followed,” Abbott said. “Enforcements from the TABC should bring these types of settings more and align to being safer standards.”

One of the counties of concern that Abbott mentioned was Hays County where 476 of the 938 confirmed cases are people between the age of 20 to 29 years old. This age group accounts for 50% of all the cases as of Monday, when it was 42% on Friday. Last week, epidemiologist Eric Schneider warned that those numbers are “staggering” for the county.

In Travis County and the city of Austin, the median age of all positive cases has ticked downward to 38 years old this week, from 39 the week prior. Twenty to 29-year-olds make up for 24% of all hospitalizations in the area.

Dr. David Persse, public health authority for the Houston Health Department, said the same trend is materializing in Harris County.

"It is my current theory, that elder persons have become more vigilant in taking precautions," Persse said.

Angela Clendenin, an epidemiologist and biostatistician at Texas A&M University School of Public Health, said young people may be acting less cautiously than older Texans because they’re careless or confident in their ability to fight off the virus, she said.

“It boils down to behaviors,” she said. “Younger people, because they’re asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, going about business as usual, still wanting to hang out with each other... They feel perfectly comfortable that they’re fine and they will be fine.”

Abbott’s comments come as the number of people hospitalized for the virus in Texas reached record-highs eight of the last nine days.

There were more than 2,500 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals Tuesday, nearly 200 more than the day before, according to state data. That number — a gauge for the severity of the disease and the amount of available hospital beds — has risen steadily since June 12. There are still about 15,000 hospital beds open in the state, as well as 1,700 ICU beds.

“Even though there are more people hospitalized, we still remain at the lowest threat level to our hospital capacity,” Abbott said Tuesday. The number of new reported cases has also increased. Abbott attributed recent and sometimes dramatic upswings to targeted testing that has been done in hard-hit facilities like meatpacking plants and nursing homes.

Emma Platoff and Shannon Najmabadi contributed to this report.

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