Earlier today, Ohio issued a shelter order for its citizens and some thought Texas would do the same. But Abbott made clear that no shelter order would be put in place for the time being as his earlier executive order remains only 48 hours old. Abbott did stress that he remains flexible and is ready to adapt as circumstances change.
On Thursday, Abbott issued an executive order instructing Texans to practice social distancing, limit social gatherings to under 10 people, close gyms and restaurants except for take-out or delivery, prohibit unnecessary visits to nursing homes, and temporarily close schools.
An analysis of the legal standing of the order can be found here.
“The first priority is the health and safety of the public,” Abbott underscored. “If you don’t have an essential reason to leave your home, you need to stay home.”
The governor also listed some numbers about coronavirus’ spread in Texas. Overall, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), there have been 334 positive cases of the virus in Texas resulting in six deaths. In total, 8,700 people have been tested.
The DSHS numbers differ from Johns Hopkins’ database, the governor explained, because Hopkins also counts those presumed to be coronavirus-positive but have not been confirmed by the test.
Abbott said that the low number of testing was not due to a lack of monetary resources from Texas, but rather because of a low supply of testing resources coming from the federal government.
“You can continue to expect an increase in the number of those tested and those testing positive as testing capabilities increase.”
Governor Abbott also issued two new executive orders:
- Postponing all non-essential surgeries;
- Allowing multiple patients to be treated in single-patient rooms.
“For the most part, I am seeing good, aggressive compliance,” said Abbott about his previous executive order, adding that there are penalties for people who do not comply with the order, including:
- Fines up to $1,000;
- Potential jail time of up to 180 days;
- Mandatory quarantine orders.
In addition to the executive orders, Abbott has also cut back several regulations to expedite the response to the coronavirus pandemic and taken actions to help Texans in need, including:
- Expanding the nursing workforce by allowing retired and inactive nurses reactivate their license, and allowing temporary license extensions to graduate students;
- Fast-tracking temporary licensing for physicians and medical professionals not from Texas to assist with both in-person and telemedicine services;
- Distributing medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile;
- Waiving trucking regulations to more readily allow the restocking of supplies to grocery stores and other retailers;
- Waiving regulations so that students in work-study programs continue to receive necessary funding;
- Waiving STAAR testing requirements for the school year;
- Temporarily waiving drivers’ license expirations;
- Creating the Texas Students MealFinder Map in a joint effort with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and local education agencies to help Texas parents locate facilities serving meals in their communities.
Asked when Texas’ coronavirus crisis is expected to peak, Abbott and DSHS secretary John Hellerstedt said it depends on the state’s ability to limit the spread.
Stricter standards will not be implemented at the moment, but Abbott further stated, “Local officials have the authority to implement stricter standards. If they choose to do so, I applaud them.”
Tarrant County issued stricter regulations earlier this week, including prohibiting the gathering of congregations — something Abbott has specifically avoided thus far in his executive orders.
Overall, Abbott appealed to the federal government for more “personal protective equipment” for healthcare workers.
As the situation develops, Abbott stated he “will remain flexible” in his options.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.