Gov. Greg Abbott held a virtual town hall Thursday night in Austin, to update Texans on the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak. Hours earlier, Abbott issued an executive order that shuts down bars, clubs, gyms and restaurant dining rooms statewide and bans gatherings of more than 10 people. Texas Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt also issued a public health disaster declaration with similar orders.
The governor warned that as wide scale testing for Covid-19 ramps up, Texans can expect a dramatic increase in the number of cases in the weeks ahead. "As of tonight, there have been 158 people in Texas who've tested positive," he said. "This time next week there will be thousands of people who've tested positive, and in two weeks probably tens of thousands."
The mass testing phase is just beginning, with testing sites opening across the state for those who are deemed eligible. "What we're doing now is focusing on testing," Abbott said. "We've already conducted thousands of tests, but we're prepared to do 15-20 thousand per week."
Abbott also confirmed that he has been tested for the virus. "The coronavirus in Texas has been around the state for a month, and since that time I have shaken hands with or hugged or encountered thousands of Texans," he said. "So I owed it to my staff and to the people of Texas as I lead this effort, to make sure that I was tested...and I tested negative, which means I don't have it."
The governor noted that the coronavirus is a unique and difficult challenge, but compared it to Hurricane Harvey in how Texas responds. "We all remember Harvey...when the entire region around Harris County was inundated and people were homebound for weeks...we saw heroism of our fellow Texans helping out Texans...together we made it through," said Abbott. "Together, we will make it through the coronavirus also."