FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) — Amid the public’s growing concern about the spread of COVID-19, CBS 11’s Doug Dunbar spoke with Texas Governor Greg Abbott Friday evening and asked some questions regarding the virus in the Lone Star State.
You explained the reasoning behind that just the other day because so many counties in Texas — out of the 254 — aren’t dealing with COVID-19 thankfully at the moment. Now, as the case load has gone up, there are 105 — at last check that I saw — counties now dealing with at least something related to COVID-19. Would you consider now either estate approach — or maybe even a regional approach — instead of where we stand right now with kind of a patchwork of restrictions for municipalities?
Sure. Just to be clear, there actually is a statewide order and plan in place. It is my executive order that I issued a week ago, last Friday…actually, last Thursday. Under that order, that’s what shut down all the bars and restaurants in the state of Texas — but leaving restaurants open for delivery or for pick up. It shut down all the schools in the state of Texas. It shut down any access to anything like senior living facilities as well as making sure that we limit gatherings of more than ten people.
That set a standard. But it’s very important that your audience knows what that standard is based upon because it will foreshadow what the future will provide. That standard is based upon doctors and data – based in part upon the doctor leading the state effort – Dr. Hellerstedt. But also as Governor, I have weekly calls with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. Those are the two doctors at the podium with the President talking about the Coronavirus on a daily basis.
And so we make our decisions on the advice of all these doctors. And those doctors make their decisions based upon the data. We will be having another meeting with Dr. Birx – with the President – next week where we will be getting new guidelines to determine what the future will look like in the state of Texas. That said, as we are talking tonight, 75% of the state is now living under standards that are heightened, even more restrictive, than my executive order. It is the stay in place, stay at home standard. And so 75% of the population of the State of Texas is living by the highest standard that exists in the country and is having a very positive effect by achieving a collective goal to reduce the spread of coronavirus in Texas.
There are a number of mayors here in North Texas, candidly, who have wondered aloud and spoken to us about the fact that they would rather see a more regional approach perhaps coming from your office when it comes to the stay at home order.
The way disaster declarations work is they work at the county level. The governor will make a decision, and it applies at county levels. That aside, the practices that are taking place in Texas — that your viewers are doing right now by being at home watching this on tv – are the practices that are the subject of my order, as well as — I assume — local orders. And they are doing exactly what we need to do, and that is to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Understand this: While we are doing this ‘slow the spread’ strategy, we are also implementing other strategies as we are speaking. We are dramatically increasing the amount of testing that is taking place. Since last Friday to this day, we have increased testing by 1000%. And then on top of that, through this process, looking at all the data, we are working to flatten the curve in the state of Texas and then at the very same time, we are working every single day to increase the amount of healthcare capabilities that we will be able to provide local communities just like those of there in the north Texas region.
Governor, may I ask you, you brought up testing. We have reported on almost a daily basis – we have two test sites in Dallas specifically – that have basically closed down the middle of each day because of a federal mandate that they can only do 250 test per site per day. Is that just the way that’s going to be? There is a thought, obviously – and you have vocalized it as well – there may be far more people infected out there that we know about, but yet at these sites because of the federal mandate, they can’t go beyond 250 a day.
But understand this…this is very important for your audience to know. First, we are talking about collection, not the testing. You first collect the specimen, then it sent for the lab for testing. On the collection side, there are multiple different ways that the collection takes place. One is through these drive-throughs. Some of those drive-throughs are provided by private healthcare facilities there in the North Texas region. Some are these FEMA-funded setups. And it is the FEMA-funded strategies that you are talking about. Those are not the only drive through strategies that exist in north Texas or other parts of the state of Texas.
Then in addition to your private healthcare provider, in addition to the FEMA-funded strategy, there is also the public health strategy where your public health authority that has both collection capability as well as testing capability.
Bottom line is, we have had this 1000% increase, meaning a tenfold increase, of collection and testing over the past week. We will continue to expect that same level of increase going forward.
Our schools — the administrations, the districts — have all become heroes trying to keep the learning coming for all of our kids. The simple question from almost every parent I have talked to in the last couple of days and that is, ‘Do you think our kids are going to go back to school this academic year?’
It may depend upon what region of the state somebody is in. In what I’ll call the North Texas region, it is hard to say right now. I can tell everybody watching, we will be receiving a national update from the White House early next week about what the next steps are in this process of responding to the Coronavirus. We need to wait and see what comes up.
Because what is going to come out at the time is going to be based upon the data that they are seeing in Texas — but also that they are seeing nationally – that they can build trend models out of. Let us get this new data in so we can see.
One last thing — really quick — about the data that’s so important for the audience to know. And that is, of all of these different people that are being tested in Texas, less than 10% of them test positive. Less than 10% who test positive have to go to the hospital.
So, these are good results for people to understand that just because this disease is out there doesn’t mean you are going to face the challenge per se.
Watch the entire interview below: