As the state hits a high for new cases, Gov. Abbott urges Texans to stay home

The governor said the virus is gaining speed in Brazos County.
Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 12:59 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX/Gray News) - Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas will report an all-time high of more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday.

In an interview with KBTX, the governor said too many Texans don’t believe COVID-19 is a challenge or take it seriously enough and teased to new announcements in the coming days on how the state was fighting the virus.

“The first obligation that we have is to make sure people around the state really comprehend the magnitude of the challenge we’re dealing with,” said Abbott. “There remain a lot of people in the state of Texas who think that the spread of COVID-19 is really not a challenge. Know this, and that is today, Texas will report an all-time high in the number of cases of people testing positive of more than 5,000. As you pointed out, the hospitalization rate is at an all time high. The coronavirus is serious. It’s spreading in Brazos County, across the entire state of Texas, which is exactly why action is being taken.”

The governor stressed that the state is taking action to stop the spread of the virus, including increasing enforcement in areas where the virus is spread by agencies like the TABC. Abbott said the state is also surging testing and response supplies to areas suffering an outbreak and working on best practices for standardizing virus reporting at the state level. Changes in the state’s response, he said, may be on the way.

“There are measures that are being taken to make sure that we are immediately responding to this, as well as additional announcements that may be coming later today and later tomorrow, as well as during the course of the week,” said Abbott.

Governor Greg Abbott urged people to stay inside their homes whenever possible and to wear a mask and keep a safe distance in public places.

“First, we want to make sure that everyone reinforces the best safe practices of wearing a mask, hand sanitization, maintaining safe distance, but importantly, because the spread is so rampant right now, there’s never a reason for you to have to leave your home. Unless you do need to go out, the safest place for you is at your home,” he said.

At a press conference Monday, Abbot said the virus is spreading at an uncontrollable rate, which he stressed was an issue to watch in Brazos County.

“You’re seeing the virus gain in speed as it crosses Brazos County, College Station, Bryan,” said Governor Abbott.

Brazos County saw another double-digit increase Tuesday in the number of new positive cases reported. 28 people remained hospitalized.

“People do need to be cautious, and wearing a mask is one of the best ways to make sure you do not get COVID-19,” he continued.

Abbott stressed the difference between cases in Bryan-College Station and more rural areas but stopped short of calling for any ordinances involving masks in Brazos County. The governor said he has worked with local leaders across the state on mask ordinances, but there remains some flexibility on a local level.

“The safest place for people right now is inside their homes,” Abbott said, encouraging people to only leave their homes when necessary.

Abbott also touched on the state’s flexible plans for school this fall. The Texas Education Agency is expected to release school guidelines Tuesday. He emphasized that school funding and the education system must remain flexible throughout the pandemic, and believed the TEA’s plan would provide funding for average daily attendance whether students were learning at home or in the classroom, offering a focus on both safety and education quality.

“Broad-based, it is these things: we want to ensure that students will be accessing the best quality education possible while during these pandemic times. The goal will be to have children return to schools and spend time with their teachers, as well as their classmates, but we emphasize this,“ said the governor. “One is we want to make sure that the school setting is one that is going to be safe for students, where we will put their health and safety, as well as the health and safety of teachers, foremost. Second, does the principal have flexibility? We need to be flexible in the way that education will be provided to ensure that if there is an outbreak at school, there is the ability for students to be able to learn remotely from their home, and it’s going to be required by schools that schools have standards and mechanisms in place where they will be able to educate children through that remote process.”

While not briefed in full on the TEA’s announcement, Abbott said he was confident parents would be notified of COVID-19 cases in schools in a timely manner, and said parents could expect to see sudden closures for cleaning similar to local businesses. Abbott said the state remains flexible on how some students will attend class, with a commitment to offering the best education possible for each student’s circumstances.

“If someone in a school setting does test positive, everyone affiliated with the school, meaning like parents, workers, et cetera, would be notified about it, and it’s my understanding that there would be sanitization of schools that would take place,” he said.

Abbott said he didn’t know if a mask requirement would be in place at schools but said the state had already made and would continue to allocate masks at schools, allowing for flexibility at the district level about what mask requirements should be.

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