AUSTIN, Texas — Hours after announcing all Texas bars must close and restaurants must be reduced to 50% capacity, Gov. Greg Abbott joined KVUE June 26 to talk about his latest order as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to spike across the state.
The new order came one day after Abbott directed all elective or non-essential surgeries in Travis, Bexar, Harris and Dallas counties be postponed. He also revealed on June 25 he is pausing further phases on reopening the state.
In an interview with KVUE's Ashley Goudeau Friday, the governor said, "If people do not follow the rules, that could lead to even more ratcheting back of the opening of businesses in Texas."
Abbott said Texans should not be complacent or think COVID-19 has gone away simply because businesses are reopening in the state.
"By opening things up, it perhaps give us the perception that there is no need to follow the same practices anymore," he told KVUE. "And that's why we've been emphasizing for the past few weeks that as we open up, it is necessary for everybody to return to those safe practices."
The governor encouraged Texans to remain vigilant, wear masks in public, social distance and stay home if they can.
Here is the full interview:
Ashley Goudeau: "A spike in COVID-19 cases prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a new executive order today, closing some businesses and reducing capacity limits at others. Gov. Abbott is joining us now live from his studio in Austin. Good afternoon to you, governor. "
Gov. Greg Abbott: "Good afternoon to you also."
Goudeau: "Governor, I think it's fair to say that people who really pay attention to your news conferences, read your orders and have read your report on reopening Texas, have heard your message that COVID-19 is not going away and they should wear a face mask and practice good hygiene. But I think most people are not necessarily that plugged in.
"So do you believe that reopening Texas at the pace you did, increasing capacity limits at the pace you dictated, gave people a false sense of security about the virus?"
Abbott: "Well, listen, there could be a mathematical reason for that, because you might remember that we announced the reopening on April 27. One month later, on May 26, was one of our best days. And it was just a day or two after Memorial Day on May 26, which happens to be one month before now, we only had 589 people testing positive.
"Today we have 10 times that many, more than 5,700. One month ago we only had 1,500 people who were hospitalized. Today we have more than 5,100. The positivity rate this day last month was the lowest that we had, and the downtrend as we began opening up.
"So it would be only natural for Texans to think that we had conquered COVID-19. And then there were parties on Memorial Day and things like that, and bars opening up, and it just led to this perhaps sense that we didn't have to worry about COVID-19 anymore. And COVID has struck again. It's just been a matter of a couple of weeks that we've seen this massive spike. And that's exactly why we are following the data to make sure that we go back and do the same practices that we did initially to slow the spread of the coronavirus."
Goudeau: "Do you think you played a role in Texans feeling a bit more comfortable and more relaxed?"
Abbott: "By opening things up, it perhaps gave us the perception that there is no need to follow the same practices anymore. And that's why we've been emphasizing for the past few weeks that as we open up, it is necessary for everybody to return to those safe practices of wearing a mask if you go outdoors or if, in fact, because of the amount of spread.
"If you don't need to leave your house, you should just stay at home. But if you do, in addition to wearing a mask, maintain your distance from others and sanitize your hands. We proved before that we can reduce the spread of the coronavirus. We can prove it again if everyone does return to those safe practices."
Goudeau: "In the order you issued today, you brought back fines of up to $1,000 for businesses and people who violate your order now. This was a big point of contention, particularly with that Dallas salon owner. You previously came onto KVUE and said that, you know, fines were not the way to go. So why reverse that now?"
Abbott: "So actually, if you go back, you will see that the fines have actually been in all of my executive orders. What I was talking about with regard to what happened in Dallas, two things. One is she was jailed, not just fined, but jailed. And what I did eliminate at that time was putting people in jail for not following these orders because it didn't make sense to put someone in jail where they could catch COVID as opposed to doing other things, and especially putting people in jail like they were in Dallas where they were not putting people in jail for stealing. And so it turned the criminal justice system on its head.
"What I had made clear, and that is the importance of wearing mask, but not fining people for not wearing a mask and enhance the architecture behind my prior order. And that is businesses can require, and now must require, people who are customers who come into their business to wear it masks. And if they don't, the businesses will face the burden of a potential fine. And the reason for that is because businesses are providing this conjugate setting that causes people together. Together, they could spread COVID-19, but also they're the ones with a vested interest to ensure that everybody does follow the rules, because if people do not follow the rules, that could lead to even more ratcheting back of the opening of businesses in Texas."
Goudeau: "You know, during that White House briefing today, Vice President Mike Pence specifically talked about the increase of cases in Austin and Houston as a point of concern. Are you going to take some additional action in these cities to prevent the spread?"
Abbott: "So we look every day both at the data as well as strategies that can be taken to make sure that we will be able to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We've looked at ideas today and I have no doubt we will be looking at ideas over the weekend and as next week begins. And we will continue to act swiftly, just as we did today on an ongoing basis, to make sure we are using every strategy to make sure we contain the spread of the coronavirus."
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