Governor Greg Abbott announced an executive order that halts the operations of restaurants, schools, and other public spaces in Texas amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Abbott revealed that tens of thousands could contract coronavirus in Texas in two weeks. This is considered a dramatic increase from the 161 positive cases confirmed in the state so far. However, officials emphasized the past days that the number of infected individuals may rise as the state tests more people.
“This is a very rapidly spreading disease, but it’s one that we are prepared to respond to,” Abbott said during a virtual town hall Thursday night.
The executive order aims to limit social gatherings to 10 people. Eating and drinking at restaurants and bars are prohibited, but they can have takeout’s. Gyms and schools will also be closed. People are banned from visiting nursing homes except for critical care. The executive order will take effect midnight Friday through midnight April 3, Abbott said.
“Working together, we must defeat COVID-19 with the only tool that we have available to us — we must strangle its expansion by reducing the ways that we are currently transmitting it,” said Abbott. “We are doing this now, today, so that we can get back to business as usual more quickly.”
Abbott explained that Texas’ approach to disaster response was being challenged by a rapidly changing situation. There were 39 positive tests in Texas when he announced an initial disaster plan six days ago, and now the state has recorded more than 140 cases.
Moreover, Abbott announced that state health commissioner John Hellerstedt declared a public health disaster. Abbott added that the last time such a declaration was held in Texas was 1901.
The governor clarified that the executive order is not a shelter-in-place order, explaining that Texans can still go to the grocery store or bank. All critical infrastructure will remain open. Offices can remain open but they must only be used by “essential employees,” and companies should allow others to work remotely, Abbott said.