Worried about current compliance, Gov. Greg Abbott signals openness to stricter coronavirus order


Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday expressed some dissatisfaction with how Texans are responding to various measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic, signaling an openness to imposing a stricter statewide mandate soon.

"It's clear to me that we may not be achieving the level of compliance that is needed," Abbott said during a news conference in Austin. "That's why I said before I remain flexible in my statewide standard."

"We will continue to evaluate, based upon all the data, whether or not there needs to be heightened standards and stricter enforcement," Abbott added.

Abbott's comments came on the heels of the state's biggest counties issuing stay-at-home orders in the absence of a statewide mandate. Abbott has so far resisted such a sweeping order, saying many counties are still not reporting cases and that he wants to see the full impact of an executive order he issued Thursday. That order, which expires at midnight April 3, limited public gatherings to 10 people and closed restaurants and schools, among other things.

However, Abbott's remarks Tuesday indicated his thinking may be evolving. He said that while he was heading to the news conference, he was "surprised at how many vehicles I saw on the road." (Austin is home to Travis County, whose stay-at-home order goes into effect at midnight.)

Citing numbers from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Abbott said that 715 Texans have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The true number of people who have been infected could be much higher, however, since testing is still not widespread. More than 11,000 people have been tested in Texas so far. There have been 11 deaths.