When Gov. Greg Abbott told Texans this week to restrict their social interactions except for essential activities, he made his thinking clear: He didn't consider his latest executive order a "stay-at-home" order.
That distinction caused some confusion about what exactly his order intended to do. Residents in many states have been told to stay at home to fight the spread of the new coronavirus. Was Abbott's order different? Was he not going that far?
In subsequent interviews and statements, Abbott was clearer. The order "requires all Texans to stay at home except to provide essential services or do essential things like going to the grocery store," he said in a video message released Wednesday afternoon, hours before the executive order went into effect.
In other words, the order does what many other governors' recent orders do — just with different branding. The order is now in place until April 30.
Still, how Abbott talks about his order matters. Clear direction from public officials is necessary, said Dennis Perrotta, a former Texas state epidemiologist.
“What we really need is 100% clarity in what the governor or any political leader should say about this,” Perrotta said. “The more sure you are, the clearer you are, the more unrelenting, if you will, that you are, more people will believe that it’s important to do what they’ve been asked to do by their political leaders, and the sooner we’ll be able to get through this.”
Here's how Abbott's order — and his handling of it — compares to the situation in other states, including those on the front lines of the pandemic in the United States: