AUSTIN (Nexstar) — People flying into Texas from airports in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or New Orelans will be subject to a mandatory self-quarantine, Gov. Greg Abbott announced in a press conference on Thursday.
Abbott’s order was announced during his third conference this week regarding Texas’ response to coronavirus.
In addition to the new order, the Governor also confirmed the latest numbers in Texas.
There have now been 18 deaths related to COVID-19 in Texas, according to Abbott. Additionally, Texas entered the triple-digits in number of patients, with the Governor confirming there are now 100 patients in hospitals in the state, the first time state leaders have reported such a number.
That’s 100 hospitalized patients out of a total 1,424 cases, across 90 counties, Abbott said. explaining that less than 10% of those infected have needed to be hospitalized. More testing capability has increased the number of positive cases in Texas, Abbott indicated.
“We are on a very good trajectory in the increase of the number of people we are testing, and I expect that increase to continue,” Abbott said.
The executive order mandating self-quarantines for people flying in from the aforementioned areas means that those travelers must self-quarantine for 14 days, or for the duration of their stay in Texas, whichever length of time is shorter, Abbott said. The order takes effect Saturday, March 28 at noon.
The New York tri-state area is the center of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States,” Abbott said, adding that members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force recommended New Orleans be considered a hotspot that states should monitor.
For those travelers who are subjected to self-quarantine, Abbott says they will have to indicate where they’re quarantining, which will be verified by Texas DPS troopers who will visit the location to make sure each person’s complying. Passengers will receive a DPS-issued form to fill out upon disembarking from the plane. Violators face fines up to $1,000, up to 180 days in jail, “or both,” Abbott said.
The executive order does not include people traveling into Texas by car, however. The order aims to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from high-case areas into Texas.
Abbott said he also considered extending the executive order to Washington State and California — a change that could be made in the future, if needed, he said.
The Capitol press conference included appearances by Texas Department of State Health Services Dr. John Hellerstedt and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd.
Hellerstedt elaborated on the order, calling it “very sound” and saying that due to widespread community spread, the order was necessary.
The announcements come a day after Abbott announced he waived nursing regulations regarding renewal and fees. Expired licenses now have a 6-month grace period. He also took action to expand hospital capacity. His busy Wednesday included a request to the federal government seeking permission to allow Texans on food stamps to use their benefits for take-out and drive-thru restaurants, opening up another food source for 3.2 million Texans.
The state received $16.2 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide meals for senior citizens, Abbott’s office announced Wednesday morning.
The Governor has issued series of executive order of the coronavirus crisis. An order he issued on Tuesday order requires hospitals to provide daily reports on bed capacity to the state health department and requires health providers submit daily reports of COVID-19 tests. His other orders include school closures, postponing non-critical surgeries, and banning public gatherings of 10 people or more.
President Donald Trump granted a major disaster declaration for Texas on Wednesday at Abbott’s request, unlocking additional federal funding for the state to use for its response. Abbott’s office released information this week detailing how Texas would distribute the initial round of federal funding from the first coronavirus bill passed through Congress. Meanwhile, private companies and non-profit organizations have made donations of supplies to local, regional and state healthcare workers.
At a Tuesday press conference, Abbott announced his new Supply Chain Strike Force had procured hundreds of thousands of face masks, gloves and gowns for healthcare workers. The strike force has secured more than $80 million in purchase orders for supplies in just days, using money available from the Governor’s Disaster Fund.
“The state of Texas is competing with other states and the federal government for supplies, and there is more demand than there are available supplies. The good news is the federal government is racing to increase the supplies, and that’s why you’re seeing an increase in the number of testing kits, collection kits as well as PPE as well as ventilators,” Abbott said Tuesday.
The Governor, who has been hesitant to issue a statewide stay-at-home order amid growing pressure, has left local leaders to make the call on city and county stay-at-home mandates. Abbott indicated Tuesday a willingness to “remain flexible.”
“It is clear to me, we may not be achieving the level of compliance that is needed,” Abbott said Tuesday.
During the Thursday press conference, Abbott said that after the nationwide 15-day campaign to stop the spread of COVID-19, state and federal governments would decide which updates are necessary.
Asked if he sees a timeline for when Texas schools could reopen, Abbott said it’s “impossible” to make that decision right now.
“We will make a quick assessment with one goal in mind, and that is to make sure we’re putting the safety of students, teachers, educators and communities first,” Abbott said.