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Texas coronavirus cases prompt Gov. Greg Abbott to activate National Guard

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National guard troops help with Food distribution during the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York on March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he is activating the Texas National Guard in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the state, which had at least 69 positive cases as of Tuesday morning. While there is no need to deploy them yet, he said, Guard members will be standing ready.

First responders and health care workers will be excluded from the activation, he said.

"I am grateful to the men and women of the National Guard for their dedication to serving their fellow Texans, and want to assure the public that this is a precautionary measure to make sure the Texas National Guard has the capability to serve at a moment's notice where they are needed most," Abbott said in a statement.

In public and private labs, 1,264 Texans have been tested for COVID-19 so far, Abbott said. That's a significant jump from the state's Monday report that roughly 400 people had been tested in public labs. By the end of the week, he expects the state to be able to test 10,000 people weekly.

"This week, Texas will be receiving 15,000 test kits from FEMA alone. Testing will be conducted in part by FEMA, in part by hospitals, in part by public health authorities, in part by these private" operators, Abbott said.

Abbott's announcement follows recently discovered instances of possible community spread in Webb, Tarrant, Matagorda and Brazoria counties, in addition to community spread identified earlier Montgomery and Dallas counties. On Sunday, Texas saw it's first coronavirus-related death when a resident in his late 90s died in Matagorda County with a pending test result, which later came back positive.

In recent days, public schools and universities have shuttered classrooms and transitioned to online learning, some for the remainder of the semester, and Dallas and Harris County have closed bars and ended seated restaurant dining in the interest of social distancing.

The Texas National Guard was last activated during Hurricane Harvey, the 2017 disaster that devastated the Houston area.