AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott said COVID-19 is spreading in Texas at “an unacceptable rate and it must be corralled” as he detailed how key metrics related to the pandemic have doubled in the state since the end of May.
During his Monday news conference on the state’s response to the pandemic, Gov. Abbott used COVID-19 hospitalizations, positive test rate and new cases to highlight how Texas is trending in the wrong direction.
Using the state’s numbers from late May compared to the first half of June, Gov. Abbott says daily hospitalizations have grown from 1,600 to 3,200 people; the daily count has grown from 1,500 to 3,500 new cases; and the positive test rate has grown from 4.5% to nearly 9%.
“Surely the public can understand that if those spikes continue, additional measures are necessary,” Gov. Abbott said, pointing to the three charts behind him.
Gov. Abbott says the state is using several options to fight these COVID-19 case increases, but added that “closing down Texas again will always be the last option.”
Gov. Abbott did not enact any new restrictions, yet.
“If we were to experience another doubling of those numbers, over the next month, that would mean, that we are in an urgent situation where proper actions will be required to make sure that we do contain the spread of COVID-19,” the Governor said.
Democrats are calling for more action now.
“I think where we’re at right now is we don’t need necessarily a full shutdown. But we do need to make more restrictions,” Abhi Rahman with the Texas Democratic Party said, adding that masks should be mandated at the state level.
Several times on Monday, Gov. Abbott stressed the importance of wearing masks while Texans attempt to navigate life during the pandemic.
“I know that some people feel like wearing a mask is inconvenient or infringing on freedom,” but wearing a mask will slow the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Abbott said on Monday.
Additionally, Abbott says the state is implementing more testing in hot spots, closing multiple river and park areas, following hospital guidance on needs and numbers and monitoring bars and restaurants to ensure they are operating according to state orders.
During an undercover operation over the weekend, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission issued 30-day permit suspensions for 17 bars across the state for violations against the state’s COVID-19 protocols.
Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt added that he hopes Texans can “recover a sense of community” from the early stages of the outbreak to gain control of current COVID-19 trends.
“Together we can keep Texans safe. Together we will keep Texas wide open,” Gov. Abbott said.
Texas house Speaker Dennis Bonnen issued a statement after Abbott’s announcement, urging Texans to “mask up.”
“I have become increasingly infuriated by so-called advocates who are ditching the mask in the middle of a pandemic as an expression of freedom and liberty, while expressly killing the freedoms and liberties we cherish,” Bonnen wrote, in part.
“It’s time to mask up. It’s time to employ personal responsibility — a key tenet of ensuring liberty and freedom,” Bonnen said. “It’s time to stand up to the mask naysayers who speak loudly but act irresponsibly as they destroy the liberty and freedom we ALL deserve.”