AUSTIN, Texas (KLTV) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott has extended his disaster declaration to limit human contact to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The order also means schools are closed until at least May 4.
“I’m proud of my fellow Texans,” Abbott said during the press conference Tuesday afternoon. " “By reducing your personal interactions, you are saving lives.”
Abbott said residents can still do outdoor activities like hiking and fishing, as long as they can social-distance appropriately. Later, the governor said the idea of “drive-in” church service could be a possibility on Easter.
As of noon on Tuesday, 42,922 Texans had been tested for the coronavirus, Abbott said. Of that number, 3,266 tested positive for COVID-19, he said.
At this point, 122 Texas counties have at least one confirmed COVID-19 case, Abbott stated. Eleven percent of the people who have tested positive for the coronavirus have been hospitalized. He added that only 2.6 percent of the hospital beds in the state that are available for COVID-19 are occupied at this time.
To date, 41 Texans have died as a result of the illness, Abbott said.
“The social distancing practices are working, but as President Trump said two days ago, now is not the time to let up," Abbott said. “We need to stay the course. It’s time to re-double our efforts.”
Abbott said that Texans will still be able to go to the store, to the bank, to get healthcare, or to get gas. Those people that work to provide essential services will still be allowed to go to work. Abbott said residents can still do outdoor activities like running, hiking, bicycle riding, fishing, hunting, or going to parks as long as they can social-distance appropriately. Later, the governor said the idea of “drive-in” church service could be a possibility on Easter.
Entities like cities and counties will still provide critical infrastructure services, the governor said.
Non-essential businesses will remain closed unless their employees and contractors are able to work from home.
“We cannot forfeit the gains we have already made,” Abbott said. “We have made tremendous strides, but our journey still isn’t complete.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick echoed Abbott’s sentiments that Texans should stick to the social distancing guidelines. He said, per capita, Texas, which has a population of 29 million people has one of the lowest death rates in the United States.
Elaborating on the governor’s decision to keep Texas’ public schools closed until at least May 4, Mike Morath, the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, said he understands what parents are going through with their children learning from home because he and his wife have two young children.
“We’re all wrestling with this new reality,” Morath said. “We want you to know that our teachers are doing whatever they can in love and diligence to support their students and those students’ parents."
Abbott repeated that there are consequences if anyone violates the executive orders that are in place. Those consequences include a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail. The governor added that Dr. John Hellerstedt, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services issued his own executive order that states that Texans who violate the rules could also face mandatory quarantine.
For the full text of Abbott’s latest executive order (GA-14), click here.