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Did Texas follow federal guidelines?

As Gov. Greg Abbott announced he is pausing a furthering re-opening of the state, some lawmakers argue the spike in virus cases is a product of not enough people changing their daily habits.

In early May, Abbott pointed to stable hospitalization and positivity rates, along with comparatively low mortality rates as a signal the state could re-open in phases.

“As you can see back on April the 20th the percentage of the people who were tested, who tested positive, was 7.2% then that number went down to 4.6%,” the governor stated during a May 5 news conference. “Anything below 7.2% is going to be a good number.”

Centers for Disease Control backed guidelines released by the White House cautioned states to wait for a 14-day downward trajectory in the number of new cases reported each day or the positivity rate before starting a phased re-opening.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the seven-day average positivity rate dropped for 11 days in April before hitting a plateau. There was another slight drop in May before another plateau set in. Texas’ positivity rate started spiking on June 14.

Positive COVID-19 cases
Positive COVID-19 cases (kprc)

DSHS numbers do show the state never saw a consistent and sustained drop in the number of daily new cases being reported.

Daily new COVID-19 case chart
Daily new COVID-19 case chart (kprc)

“I do think, generally speaking, that the state did follow the guidelines from Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, the CDC,” said Republican Senator John Cornyn. “We’ve learned from this experience none of us has been through this before, so we’ve seen the guidance evolve over time.

The World Health Organization recommended a state should not state reopening until it sees a positivity rate of 5% or lower for 14-days. DSHS reported numbers that low only in short spurts during the month of May.

" “I think generally speaking, that the governor has been taking advice from the very best people that provide that advice whether it’s the CDC. I have a little less confidence in the world health organization,” said Cornyn.

State Senator Paul Bettencourt also argues the recent spike is not so much from the re-opening as it is people not social distancing, wearing masks or washing hands.

“I think what we have is a socializing problem, not a social distancing problem at work,” said Bettencourt. “What we’ve seen since Memorial Day is a pent up explosion in socialization.”

“Bettencourt said the state can’t afford another shutdown and people need to realize these safety precaution have to be part of their daily life.

“You have to go out of your way to break those old habits,” said Bettencourt. “We’re going to have to keep the economy open while we fight the virus.”

During that May news conference, the governor did mention if the positivity rate climbs above 10% it would represent a red flag. As of June 24, Texas positivity rate is above 11% and the reason Governor Abbott decided to pause a further reopening of Texas.