AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a report dated Dec. 6, the White House Coronavirus Task Force warned Texas leaders of its “red zone” coronavirus positivity rate and encouraged them to implement further restrictions to slow community spread.
The report sharply called on state and local leaders in Texas to “increase physical distancing through significant reduction in capacity or closure of public and private indoor spaces, including restaurants and bars” to stunt increasing hospitalizations across the state.
A spokesperson for Gov. Greg Abbott said the governor spoke with Dr. Debra Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, who was “unaware” of the state’s mitigation procedures.
“These pre-planned procedures have proven to be successful and are expected to continue to work to slow the spread of COVID-19, as we begin to distribute vaccines and anti-body therapeutic medication to aid in reducing hospitalizations and to protect the lives and livelihoods of Texans,” said Renae Eze, Abbott’s press secretary.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force report noted hospitalizations are declining in El Paso but rising in other parts of the state, adding “the state must increase mitigation to prevent ongoing community spread.”
Abbott has said he will not implement any more lockdowns in Texas, though the state will rollback capacity requirements for businesses in regions where 15% of hospital patients are being treated for COVID-19.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he’s “concerned for the state” as public health officials in Austin-Travis County determine whether to move the community to its highest COVID-19 risk level.
Under “Stage 5,” recommendations include limiting business operations to contactless options and avoiding all gatherings outside the household.
“If our (intensive care units) were to get overwhelmed then we’re in a world of hurt,” Adler told KXAN. “We have 200 ICU beds that we have staffed. We were up to 90 this weekend.”
Austin-Travis County public health officials will hold their weekly coronavirus update on Wednesday.
KXAN politics reporter John Engel will have a full report tonight at 10 p.m.