Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, R, signaled he may halt or reverse the state’s economic reopening if the covid-19 contagion continues to expand at what he called an “unacceptable rate.”
Citing a doubling in the positive-test rate to almost 9%, as well as surges in new cases and hospitalizations, Abbott on Monday urged residents of the second-most populous U.S. state to voluntarily wear masks and take other precautions.
Abbott’s remarks underscore a political quandary in Republican-led states that were among the vanguard in reopening across the U.S. While covid-19 cases are rising, and events like President Donald Trump’s weekend rally in Oklahoma sow additional concern about more infections, the GOP governors’ all-in embrace of ending lockdowns makes it difficult to start reapplying restrictions to public life.
The outbreak is accelerating at “an unacceptable rate and it must be corralled,” Abbott said during a media briefing. “If those spikes continue, additional measures are going to be necessary.”
Abbott said he’s stopping short of decreeing unspecified “stronger measures” because hospitals still have ample bed capacity for covid-19 patients. But if positivity rates and hospitalizations should double in the next few weeks, the situation would be “urgent” enough for him to reconsider.
“Closing down Texas again will always be the last option,” Abbott said.
Texas’s positive-test rate climbed to 8.94% on June 19, the highest since April 21, according to state health department data. Hospitalizations have more than doubled this month to 3,409 as of Sunday, the most recent data available.
Although Abbott focused on voluntary measures he urged individuals to take — such as avoiding crowds when possible — he said state regulators have begun shutting taverns that weren’t enforcing social distancing. County leaders in several of the state’s biggest metropolitan areas recently began mandating that businesses require customers to mask up.
(c) 2020, Bloomberg · Joe Carroll