In a press conference on Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the current rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is “unacceptable.”
John Moritz, an Austin bureau reporter for the USA Today Network, told Texas Standard host David Brown on Tuesday that Abbott urged the public to take precautions like wearing masks. He even urged conservatives who’ve taken an anti-mask stance to reconsider. But Abbott stopped short of announcing a statewide face-mask policy. He’s leaving it up to municipalities to enforce face-mask rules through local businesses.
This comes amid a continued rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Moritz said hospitalizations have tripled since Memorial Day.
Business owners have been pushing back against the idea that they should be responsible for enforcing public health measures. The Texas Restaurant Association is asking the governor to issue a statewide order. But Moritz said part of Abbott’s calculus could be political.
“He’s wanting the locals to take the lead, and perhaps take the political hit, if there is one.”
Still, Abbott’s stronger stance on mask-wearing Monday is part of an effort to prevent another shutdown in Texas. Abbott presented that option as a last resort, but Moritz said Abbott is not ruling out additional measures to curb the spread if necessary.
Health officials warn that “behavior has to change” to slow the virus’ spread.
“It may only take a week or two [for cases] to go up three times again,” Moritz said. “It’s pretty easy to see that trend line getting out of control.”
As of now, Abbott said the state has enough hospital beds, intensive care unit beds and ventilators. But that could change if the number of cases grows exponentially.
Web story by Caroline Covington.