AUSTIN (KXAN) — Medical chiefs in Texas have urged Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a statewide stay-at-home order to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

Texas Hospital Association President/CEO Ted Shaw and Texas Nurses Association CEO Cindy Zolnierek stated their case in a powerful joint letter to the governor this week.

Shaw and Zolnierek said that doing so would “send a clear message about the seriousness of the threat,” and will “ultimately save lives.”

In a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Abbott closed all Texas schools until at least May and reminded Texans of the importance of social distancing, but stopped short of declaring a stricter stay-at-home order.

In the letter, Shaw and Zolnierek described how the healthcare community in Texas is becoming increasingly concerned by the spread of the virus.

“While we applaud Texas’ work to stand up additional capacity and provide the health care industry with regulatory flexibilities, the chief priority right now is preventing the spread of illness,” they wrote. “The most effective way to do that is for people to stay at home.”

Implementing this order would “prevent widespread illness in Texas,” they explained.

“With surging counts and projections – and news of community pockets that are not heeding the warning to distance – a statewide stay-at-home policy will send a clear message about the seriousness of the threat. Ultimately, it will save lives,” the pair added.

They also thanked the governor for his “tremendous leadership during this difficult, unprecedented time.”