Emergency Management Chief urges Texans to wear masks and avoid gatherings during holiday weekend


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The state’s top emergency management official is urging Texans to wear face coverings and avoid gatherings as Texans prepare to celebrate Independence Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Nim Kidd, who heads up the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said mask-wearing and proper hygiene are key to the state’s response to the coronavirus.

“It’s wearing a mask over your nose and your mouth, it’s making sure that you wash your hands, it’s making sure that the high-touch things that you touch are clean and that we keep doing that and don’t be around people if you don’t have to,” Kidd said. “It’s— don’t be going to parties don’t have everybody for family barbecue without knowing where everybody else has been.”

“This disease spreads very easily,” he explained.

“Remember when we had to put on the “click it or ticket” in order to get people to wear seatbelts? So now should we look at mask it or casket?” Kidd suggested.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide mask mandate starting Friday afternoon, in response to surging case counts and record numbers of hospitalizations, acknowledging it as a “last option.”

Recognizing the troubling position Texas found itself in, Kidd said there could be multiple factors in the state response, the ability for the virus to transmit and the public’s participation.

“We’ve been using the analogy of trying to build the airplane as we’re flying it,” Kidd said. “We think back not that long ago, there was one lab in the nation that was capable of returning a COVID-19 test. Now we’re at over 960 sites that you can give a specimen and hundreds of labs that are doing COVID-19 tests. So building that during the response for something that didn’t exist before is a very dynamic response in my mind.”

Kidd pointed to some “milestone events” that may have contributed to the virus spreading in Texas.

“I don’t think any one of them in singularity has the sole responsibility, but we had graduations, we had Memorial Day, we had Mother’s Day, we had protests out there,” he mentioned.

“I think the public felt that this was behind them, even though we kept saying, ‘Be careful if you’re going to go out, follow all the things that we’ve asked you to do,” he explained. “I think people by nature, we’re social, we want to be together.”

“We had a lot of different things where people came together and didn’t follow the instructions of the doctors,” Kidd said. “People were not wearing a mask in public, they were not staying six feet apart.”

The more doctors learn about the virus, the more state leaders can encourage behavior that limits the spread, Kidd said.

“The strategy is control the virus,” he stated.

“I think the tactics that we’re employing to do that is our job is to make sure there’s enough PPE, enough access to testing out there, but I think the task-level things that have to be done are primarily done by the public or need to be done by the public, and that’s going to be— follow the rules of the doctors, it’s listen to what the elected officials are telling you to do and following that advice,” he said.

More of Kidd’s conversation with reporter Wes Rapaport will air Sunday on “State of Texas.”

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