AUSTIN – Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday declared a state disaster for all counties in the state of Texas because of the growing threat of the coronavirus.
“Texas is taking additional measures to protect citizens, at this moment, I am declaring a state disaster for all counties in the state of Texas,” Abbott said.
He was joined with Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd and Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellersted at the State Capital to discuss the state’s continuing effort. Texas joins more than 20 states in declaring an emergency over the virus. Local officials in recent days have already opted to close an unprecedented number of school districts and cancel large-scale events.
Abbott also announced Texas will be the first state to have its first drive-through test site for the coronavirus in San Antonio, initially for first responders, healthcare workers and for people who are at high-risk. Houston will also have a drive-thru testing site by next week following other cities such as Austin and Dallas.
“From the very start Texas anticipated the spread of COVID 19 for community spread, we’ve prepared for various scenarios we face. We’re building on the state’s preexisting capabilities to enhance or respond,” Abbott said.
Here are the following topics that were covered during the press conference:
COVID-19 cases in Texas
Although the numbers are constantly changing, currently, there are 39 confirmed cases in Texas. About 220 Texans have been tested by public health labs or the CDC. About 75 people are being tested as of Friday.
“Texas public health labs have the capacity to test 273 people per day with that ability to increase with private labs coming online,” Abbott said.
TEA response to school closures
Abbott said TEA is working daily to provide the appropriate response by leading daily calls with local school superintendents. He said Texas is seeking waivers in school lunch programs if districts need to shutdown.
Restrictions on visitations
Abbott said the state’s key focus is to protect people at high risk by restricting visitation at nursing homes, state-sponsored centers and daycares.
He said there will also be restricted visitation at prisons, jails and juvenile justice facilities. People who are in constant contact with those facilities are being asked to take any action necessary to facilitate telemedicine, allow flexible work and telework.
Abbott said if you think you are ill, you should stay home and work from home.
“We don’t need people that are sick coming to work. A byproduct of more people at home, that will increase demand upon the internet band. With this increase, the private sector is stepping up and is waiving fees for unlimited usage for anyone without unlimited data plans,” Abbott said.
Insurance for testing
Abbott said the state has also asked health insurers and HMOs in Texas to waive costs on testing for this illness.
“For the uninsured, you have two options: Public health testing or private laboratory testing,” he said.
Abbott said for public health testing, the patient is required to have a consultation and if they meet criteria, they will be tested. He said private testing can also occur but could cost an individual.
Abbott said those who are looking to be tested at a public health lab are asked to call 211 and will be directed to a facility with low or no cost providers.