Apr 21, 2020
Gov. Greg Abbott Texas Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 21
Governor Greg Abbott of Texas held a press conference on coronavirus today, April 21. He said there are currently 500,000 open jobs right now in Texas, and talked about mobile testing in the state. Read all of his updates here.
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Governor Greg Abbott: (00:00)
Well, it was some information about what the job sector looks like across the state of Texas. First, I want to start out talking about a very hot topic these days and that is the volatile oil and gas markets here in Texas and frankly across the entire globe. One thing that we know is that these volatile oil and gas markets, they pose economic challenges for the state of Texas, for employees and employers alike here in our state as well as economic challenges for the United States of America. I want you to know that I have remained in constant contact with the White House for multiple weeks now talking, whether it be with the President or other members of his administration on dealing with multilayered strategies to try to address the challenges that we were seeing in the pricing of the oil and gas markets. I mean, the fact of the matter is we have a flood of supply and a dry up of demand.
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:07)
Some of the strategies that the president is either done or is working on is for one working to try to forge some type of compromise between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Another is a strategy that you’re hearing about now and that is the possibility of using the strategic reserves as a potential purchasing entity or inflow for some of the excess supply. And then there are ongoing discussions as we meet right now in the White House about strategies that could be addressed later on today or tomorrow. But [inaudible 00:01:46] I know for a fact from the president, from his administration, that they care very much about the oil and gas sector and its impact on the state of Texas, the economy in Texas, the job sector in Texas, but also the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that we as a nation have become energy independent and that energy independence matters a whole lot to us as a nation.
Governor Greg Abbott: (02:14)
And we need to make sure that the energy independence will be able to remain going forward. And that requires the ability to maintain the robust energy oil and gas production infrastructure that we have in this state. Another thing that I would like to say about this and that is even though what happened price-wise overnight was truly unprecedented and what continues today would be unprecedented. The truth is that over the history of oil and gas production, both in Texas and globally, there have always been ups and downs in the prices of oil and gas and time after time after time, whether it be businesses in Texas or elsewhere around the globe, we’ve been challenged. But also we’ve seen time and again and time and again the way that both the Texas and the United States have been able to rebound from those challenges. And I have no doubt that here again, we will be able to rebound from this.
Governor Greg Abbott: (03:20)
However, in the meantime, we as a state, we as a nation want to make sure that we are doing all that we can to try to protect and aid and support all of the men and women who are working in the oil and gas sector because they have bills to pay, they have livelihoods to take care of, they have families to take care of. And so, we want to be a part of the solution in helping the oil and gas sector here in the state of Texas.
Governor Greg Abbott: (03:47)
Second thing that I want to cover you is just to give you an update about the way the numbers are progressing with regard to testing and certain other facts in the state of Texas and provide you some context for those numbers. First, the number of Texans who have now been tested for whether or not they have COVID-19 exceeds 200,000 and actually is 205,000 plus some. To give you some context, just one, two, three, four days ago that was at 169,000. Bottom line is we continue this ongoing increase in the number of people who are being tested and as I will explain here shortly, you will be able to see an even more dramatic increase in the number of people in Texas who are being tested. Those who test positive are 19,945 as of my last numbers earlier today, showing once again that over this length of time that we’ve been doing testing in the state of Texas, the number of people testing positive in relation to those tested has remained at or just under 10%.
Governor Greg Abbott: (05:02)
So, the numbers haven’t changed and what you draw from that as a conclusion and that is our testing strategy as effective in doing the primary thing that it must do. And that is to give the state and local communities a snapshot about the extent to which COVID-19 is expanding or contracting in the state of Texas. And because those who are testing positive remains at about the same percentage as they have been all along, it shows there has been no meaningful outbreak and as I will explain shortly, so there’s actually good news with regard to the arc.
Governor Greg Abbott: (05:39)
Another number is hospitalizations. As of early today, the number of hospitalizations confirmed for those related to COVID-19 is 1,491. Here again, for all these days that I have on my page right here and to the best of my memory for the past couple of weeks, this number has remained relatively the same because the number has fluctuated plus or minus around what you could say an average of 1450 per day. What this means is that even though we have more people who are testing positive every single day, we have roughly the same number of people who are hospitalized every day. That means mathematically, the percentage of people who are hospitalized is growing smaller and smaller in relation to those who are testing positive for COVID-19, that is a good thing.
Governor Greg Abbott: (06:33)
One thing that has set Texas apart from some of the other states that have faced some of the harshest catastrophic consequences of COVID-19 is that we have not come close to needing to use now all of the hospital bed capacity that we’ve seen in some other states, maintaining a low level of the number of people who are required to be hospitalized as a result of having COVID-19. Unfortunately, the fatality rate, the total number does continue to increase. However, the number of new fatalities is on the decline for the past few days. The total number as of earlier today was 511 people who have lost their lives. Far too many. These are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who have been lost. But the good news is because in part of the quality of care, because of the way that Texas is going about this process, the loss of lives in Texas has been minimized to be a sheer a fraction of what we’ve seen in some other states.
Governor Greg Abbott: (07:40)
I will also like to point out that we are actually seeing a percentage increase in the growth of the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 that exceeds the growth rate of those who are testing positive for COVID-19. Those who have recovered now are at least 6,486 in the state of Texas. And so we continue to see good results of those who had tested positive in the past but who now are completely recovered from COVID-19. So let me put some context to all of this and these are some important factors as we go forward talking about how Texas is going to be opening up, opening up for doing business, opening up for other different types of activities. Our highest test date for the number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 was April the ninth. The only day that we had more than a thousand people test positive for COVID-19 in a single day was that day, which is as I count it, we are now about 12 days in a row, below our all time high in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19.
Governor Greg Abbott: (08:58)
Mathematically that shows that we have a good trend line that is going flat or going down in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19. In fact, our growth rate curve is now lower in Texas since the time that COVID-19 began being tracked and is now at a cumulative growth rate of just 5%. I mentioned earlier about hospital beds and our hospital bed capacity has remained quite abundant. Now as of today, there are more than 21,000 hospital beds available in the state of Texas that are available for anybody who were to contract COVID-19. In addition to that, there are 2,377 ICU beds that are available and over 8,300 ventilators that are available. Bottom line is that we are very well-equipped in the state of Texas to address the healthcare needs of anybody who may test positive for COVID-19.
Governor Greg Abbott: (10:04)
We also continue to ramp up the amount of PPE that is being distributed across the state of Texas, making sure that all of the frontline responders have access to it as well as the doctors and nurses and hospitals who may need it for non COVID-19 related purposes, are going to have PPE that they need. Over just the past week, we have distributed almost 4.8 million masks, another 453,000 face shields, as well as almost 2 million gloves and about 16,000 gowns. Another set of numbers, another set of numbers that is one of the harshest consequences of what we’ve dealt with so far other than the loss of life. And is the loss and impact to livelihoods in the state of Texas. As the most recent numbers there is now so many unemployment claims that have been filed. The information that I have are the unemployment claims that had been filled, which is good news. So of the abundant number of unemployment claims that have been filed, we have filled 1,579,000, of those unemployment claims have now already been filled and more than one point $4 billion has been paid out for those unemployment claims.
Governor Greg Abbott: (11:37)
Texas has paid about 80% of the unemployment claims that are currently eligible and the remaining 20% will be addressed very quickly because of the increased staff, new strategies, longer hours that the Texas Workforce Commission is using to make sure that they are going to be able to very swiftly address all of the unemployment claims that people have filed here in the state of Texas.
Governor Greg Abbott: (12:04)
I want to talk about volunteers for a second. We are blessed in this state to have so many people who always want to step up and help out in any way possible in response to whatever type of challenge we may be dealing with. Here, the biggest challenge we have is a healthcare response. Here, we’re having a lot of people in the state of Texas who wants to step up and lend their services to help out in responding to COVID-19 and that includes those who work in hospitals and healthcare facilities. We want to make sure those facilities remain adequately staffed in order to respond to any type of COVID-19 spike especially as we go through the process of opening up Texas for more people to go back to work. Now, we have not experienced a shortage of healthcare workers yet, but as COVID-19 may continue to-
Governor Greg Abbott: (13:03)
… workers yet, but as COVID-19 may continue to impact our state, we want to encourage all available medical personnel to register with the Texas Disaster Volunteer Registry at texas.gov. So you can go to texas.gov and you can find a location online where you’re going to be able to register, to sign up, so you can provide your services in the event that they are needed. And remember this, as a volunteer you always have a choice to accept a potential assignment, meaning that if you get an assignment that you don’t like or you don’t want, or a location that you don’t want to go to, you don’t have to go. So it’s all voluntary.
Governor Greg Abbott: (13:43)
But just know that your assistance makes a difference. A difference in the State of Texas and our ability to respond to this. But more importantly a difference in the lives of others and the lives of your fellow Texans. Additionally, hospitals and nursing homes and other health care facilities can request volunteers through that same site at texas.gov. And so if you are a hospital, a health care facility and you’re looking for volunteers to assist you in providing health care, please go to that site where you can make a connection, with those in the health care field, who can provide you personnel to assist your needs.
Governor Greg Abbott: (14:24)
So news since we last spoke, and that is one of the strategies that we are now using to increase testing in all geographical regions of the State of Texas, is with the deployment of the National Guard to assist in the testing process. So the Texas National Guard is mobilizing more than 1200 personnel, as part of the COVID-19 mobile testing teams that we’ll be covering the state. There are 25 teams that will cover various regions across Texas, to ensure that we will be able to expand this testing regimen across the entire state. The areas for this will be identified by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Governor Greg Abbott: (15:11)
When all teams are fully deployed, which will be later on this week, they will have the capability to collectively test about 3,500 people per day, and so those will be 3,500 tests per day, over and above all of the other additional increases that we will be seeing and testing that will be taking place in Texas. Speaking of which, one thing that has been wrapping up rapidly across the state, is the number of these drive through testing sites. You cannot go a day without seeing multiple stories in different regions across the state, about new drive through testing sites, and there’s no way that I can catalog all of them.
Governor Greg Abbott: (15:57)
What I can tell you is that more than 60 drive through testing sites, are now operating across the state, with more coming through public and private means. I’m going to list just a handful that opened up in just the last few days. Two Walgreen drive through testing sites in Harris County. One Emergency Diagnostic Solutions drive through testing in Weslaco. Hector County announced a new drive through testing site. Galveston County Health District drive through testing site opened up in Texas City. Texas Health Hospital, Fort Worth South drive through testing in Fort Worth. Post Acute Medical Rehabilitation Hospital drive through testing site in Allen, Texas.
Governor Greg Abbott: (16:41)
Advent Health drive through testing site in Killeen. Fort Bend County and AccessHealth drive through testing site. HealthCARE Express offering drive through testing in the Wake Village Clinic in Texarkana. Three specialty hospitals in San Antonio offering testing in their parking lots, Central Health reopening four drive through testing sites in East Travis County. Three testing site for first responders in Edinburg. By this Friday, there will be two more of these in Dallas and Fort Worth.
Governor Greg Abbott: (17:17)
One of the reasons why I want to emphasize this is, as we have seen an increase in the number and locations of these drive through testing sites, I have received images of a lot of these testing sites being vacant or poorly attended. Now I don’t know if it’s because people are feeling like they don’t have any symptoms, they don’t have any need to go be tested, or if inadequate information is being provided to the public about the location and availability of these sites. We will be providing more information about some of these sites later on this week, but I urge all public media allies, to be sure and share information about these drive through sites, so that more people from these locations will be utilizing these sites for the purpose of being tested for COVID-19.
Governor Greg Abbott: (18:11)
Some other new information concerns SNAP and SNAP Online approval. Texas will begin allowing people to purchase groceries using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Texas received federal approval from the United States Department of Agriculture to begin rolling out a pilot program for expedited online purchasing, as a SNAP option during the COVID-19 crisis. Texas Health and Human Services Commission will implement the pilot program, so SNAP recipients can log into their account at yourtexasbenefits.com for information about this feature, as well as information about available retailer and regions that will be participating.
Governor Greg Abbott: (19:03)
Now all that said, there is one thing that we really wanted to focus on today. We know that Texans really want to get back to work. It’s kind of part of the Texas DNA, and there’s been a yearning to work ever since the first day that work was shutdown. That is one reason why I and my team have been working swiftly on a program to get Texas back to work. I do want you to know that, as you know I said that I wouldn’t be making an announcement this coming Monday on April the 27th about next steps for opening up Texas. The good news is this and that is our team has received a lot of information from the public, from various different private sector businesses, that are prepared to open up their doors as soon as possible.
Governor Greg Abbott: (19:59)
And they are providing us with information and strategies about what they consider to be the safe ways, they can open their businesses while also containing the spread of COVID-19. So we are marshaling that information and we are sharing it with our doctors. Our doctors are pouring over it. They’re already making some suggestions as well as approvals of different types of businesses that we will be able to announce here in just a few days, we’ll be able to open up. So the good news is that Texas is prepared to be taking very positive steps toward opening up our state, and finally ensuring that we’re going to have more of our employees going back to work, more of our employers opening their doors for their employees as well as for customers.
Governor Greg Abbott: (20:44)
That said, in the meantime, I wanted to share information with the public, about so many job openings that are out there. Believe it or not, we have close to a half a million jobs that are available as we speak right now. And so there are a lot of different types of job openings. We have, you can see in this one slide the job openings in Texas. First, if you want to find one of the job openings, you can go to that website address which is workintexas.com. Again, if you’re looking for a job, if you are interested for a job, we will be showing you during the course of my presentation over the next five minutes, different regional locations across Texas.
Governor Greg Abbott: (21:35)
But one stop shopping location for you to look for those jobs would be at www.workintexas.com. As I said there’s nearly 481,000 jobs posted across Texas already, and companies are hiring statewide, big, and small companies alike. Some here and I’ll give you more in here in a second. You got Amazon, you got HEB, you have Randalls. Texans can go to that location, and they can search that website either by city or by zip code. Next we have a map showing different regions that are defined by the Governor’s Economic Development & Tourism Regions and Workforce Development Boards, and this just shows you a colored map of regions that I will go into next, to give you a feel for where these jobs are available. The next thing we have is what are called Workforce Solutions. So in addition to going to this one site that we have at the State of Texas, the job seekers can connect with local workforce boards to find a job. Local workforce solutions are available to employers and employees of all sizes. These services are available to both employers, as well as job seekers at no cost. So let me emphasize that, you’re not going to go to this and have to pay something in order to be able to be connected to a job. This is a service the State of Texas provides where we want to connect employers with employees who are looking to fill the slots that the employers have available.
Governor Greg Abbott: (23:19)
Next slide. So we’re going to go through regions now, and let’s just start with Central Texas and give you an idea about some of the types of industries that are hiring and some of the companies that are doing the hiring. One is technology, and so you have Amazon Corporate Offices that are available to hire people in the technology sector. We have health care, which may go without saying, whether it be in this region or any region. There will be an abundance of health care jobs available. In the Central Texas Region, you have Ascension Seton as well as Baylor Scott & White that we know are hiring.
Governor Greg Abbott: (23:58)
Next, we have North Texas or Central Texas… Go back. Which one was next? The Central Texas Workforce Boards, let me see what we got here. So for Central Texas, you can see that geographic region outlined in pink hopefully showing up for you, as you’re looking at it in pink. That would be categorized as the Central Texas Workforce Board region. And there are multiple organizations that you can go to online in that region to look for a job if you happen to live in that particular geographic region.
Governor Greg Abbott: (24:43)
In Central Texas we have the workforcesolutionsctx.com, Heart of Texas, the hotworkforce.com. West Central Texas, wfswct.org. Alamo region, the workforcesolutionsalamo. org. Golden Crescent, we have the gcworkforce.org. Around the Capital Area, the wfscapitalarea.com and rural capital, the workforcesolutionsrca.com are all locations that you can go to looking for a job.
Governor Greg Abbott: (25:17)
Next, we have North Texas and some of the industries sectors that are hiring in the North Texas area include finance, aerospace, and health care. Some of those who are hiring include Fidelity Investments, Lockheed Martin, UT Southwestern Medical School. These are high paying, good quality jobs that these employers are looking for employees. So in the North Texas Workforce Boards, you can go to one of these locations to try to find a job that may be along the lines of what you’re looking for. In the Dallas-Fort Worth Area, you have www.dfwajobs.com. Greater Dallas, you have the wfsdallas.com, Tarrant County, you have workforcesolutions.net. In the Texoma area you have…
Governor Greg Abbott: (26:03)
… workforcesolutions.net. In the Texoma area, you have workforcesolutionstexoma.com. In the Northern Texas region, you have ntxworksolutions.org. In Northeast Texas, you have netxworkforce.org.
Governor Greg Abbott: (26:18)
And then there’s West Texas. In West Texas, industries include sales operation centers and call centers as well as meat processing. Who’s hiring? We have Charter Communications, VXI Global Solutions, Cytel, as well as Lone Star Beef Processors. And when I list these employers who are hiring, of course, that’s not all of them that are hiring. That’s just a sample of those who are hiring. To find more jobs in that region, go to the West Texas Workforce Boards. That includes the Borderplex region, which is www.borderplexjobs.com, the Concho Valley region which is cvworkforce. com, the South Plains area which is www.workforcesouthplains.org. Panhandle, you have wspanhandle.com, and the Permian Basin would be workforcepb.org.
Governor Greg Abbott: (27:19)
And then there is East Texas. Some of the industries in East Texas that are hiring include biomedical, manufacturing, lumbering, as well as healthcare. And some of the companies would be Fujifilm, Biotechnologies, Georgia Pacific, UT Health East Texas, as well as Houston Methodist Hospital. And then we have the workforce boards in that region that all employees can go to if they are interested in a job in that region. You have for Deep East Texas detwork.org. For Brazos Valley, you have bvjobs. org. For pure East Texas, you have easttexasworkforce.org. For the Gulf Coast region you have wrksolutions.com, and for Southeast Texas, you have setworks.org.
Governor Greg Abbott: (28:17)
Next we have South Texas, and again, some of the industries in South Texas include aerospace, healthcare, and transportation. Who’s hiring? SpaceX, South Texas Health System, as well as Royal Freight. And places that people in those regions in South Texas can go to if they’re looking for a job include, in the Cameron County area, wfscameron.org. In South Texas at large you have www.southtexasworkforce.org. For the lower Rio Grande Valley, you have www.wfsolutions.org. For the middle Rio Grande Valley region, you have www.wfsmrg.org, and for the Coastal Bend region, you have workforcesolutionscb.org.
Governor Greg Abbott: (29:13)
And so that is just basically a rough outline of what is available out there. But going back to recap, there are so many people in Texas, they want to get back to work. Some may have jobs waiting for them. Some may have employers that will not be there anymore and so you will be looking for a new employer. We have almost half a million jobs now that are waiting for you right now in regions across the entire state of Texas. Take a look at these websites that you can go to. Explore the jobs that are open right now and available to you right now that you can apply for right now, so that you can get back to work quickly as we do go about the process of reopening Texas for you to go back to work.
Governor Greg Abbott: (30:07)
At this time, I will pass it over to Dr. Hellerstedt.
Dr. John Hellerstedt: (30:11)
Thank you, Governor. Again, thank you for that excellent summary of the status of COVID-19 in the state of Texas. We continue to see things that are very hopeful signs. We want to see those trends continue over time so that we can be confident that we have in fact passed this phase of the battle, if you will. We talk about this as a war. The war is not over, but there are signs that we are winning this first battle with COVID-19, and we’re seeing that in the rates of new infections around the state. So I want to thank everybody in Texas for keeping up the good work. People are willing to sacrifice [inaudible 00:30:52]. You see that happening everywhere and I want to assure people we have evidence that it’s paying off.
Governor Greg Abbott: (30:59)
I’ll go to Dr. Zerwas next. However, I want to pick up on something that Dr. Hellerstedt said, and that is as I recapped the numbers in the state of Texas showing that the number of people who were testing positive for COVID-19 in Texas is leveling off, it’s not because COVID-19 has suddenly dispersed from the geography of the state of Texas. The reason why it’s leveling off is because our fellow Texans have done such a great job of reducing their interactions with others. They’ve done such a great job at following distancing standards, to make sure that you would not be either contracting COVID-19 or spreading COVID-19. It’s because of your efforts that Texas is in such a good position as we are right now and I strongly urge you to do that, with one thing I really want to emphasize.
Governor Greg Abbott: (31:53)
We’ve seen the numbers and the statistics showing that those who are over the age of 70, especially over the age of 80, are particularly vulnerable. It is very important for our vulnerable populations, those who are over the age of 75 and especially 80 and especially those who may have other types of challenges, what’s called a co-morbidity, they could be the lung challenges or heart challenges or diabetes or other different types of medical issues. These folks are particularly vulnerable. We as a state must do all that we can to protect our most vulnerable population, make sure that they do not contract COVID-19, make sure that we keep them out of our hospitals.
Governor Greg Abbott: (32:37)
Next is Dr. Zerwas.
Dr. John Zerwas: (32:39)
Thank you, Governor, and thank you for your leadership and really bringing us to this place where we are seeing the viral load level off. The number I like to use, as you know, is the doubling time because I find that as a number, that is easy to sort of get a sense of are we doing better, are we doing worse, about the same and it’s well over 15 days now. You may recall when we were last here before you, I think it was down in the maybe 10 or 11 day rank. We’re continuing to see that increase and go the direction that we want it to go, and again that is because of the efforts that Texans have made in terms of distancing themselves and trying to stay at home and so forth.
Dr. John Zerwas: (33:19)
But we recognize that we can’t stay there forever and I think the efforts that the governor has made to look at what can we do in order to sort of let people get out and do a little bit more, because I think what the governor recognizes and he has said, we are going to live with this level of viral burden for a while, but what we also know is that we have plenty of healthcare capacity to accommodate that viral burden and we got plenty of ICU, we’ve got plenty of ventilators fortunately.
Dr. John Zerwas: (33:50)
And so I think it’s time, as the governor has said, for us to look at how we can take care of this, which we’re doing. Let’s look at how we can bring ourselves back into a functioning economy and let’s, the term we like to use, let’s cocoon ourselves around those people that truly are at high risk. Folks that are in the nursing homes, as the governor said, the people that are over 70, the people with the comorbidities that we know put them at higher risk. As we do these things, I think, and protect that vulnerable population we’ll at the same time be able to address what are a number of our needs in the economy, and so thank you for that leadership and I appreciate being on the team of doctors that is looking at the economy in the sectors that you’re considering opening up and getting the healthcare input into that, which you emphasize is incredibly important.
Governor Greg Abbott: (34:40)
Thank you doctor. Next Nim Kidd.
Nim Kidd: (34:43)
Thank you, Governor. I’d like to hit five points again. The first is to thank all of the people doing the buying in our state emergency operation center for personal protective equipment, the men and women who have taken a new job of working in the warehouse to make sure that that material is received, divided by regional advisory council and then shipped within a 24 hours notice of it being delivered to the warehouse. They’re doing phenomenal work out there. The second is to thank General Norris and the Texas Military Department for the men and women that she’s putting out in the field, but also the call center that’s being set up, the registration process and the application return rate. We will have that online for you towards the end of this week, ina few more days to roll that out, that will list more drive through testing sites, Governor, that you mentioned earlier today and then we will have an interactive map ready for you to roll out towards the end of this week.
Nim Kidd: (35:27)
Finally, I want to thank again the healthcare workers and the first responders that are out there and the local officials that I’m talking to around the state on a constant basis. They’re out there on the front lines. They’re working hard for us and I’m grateful for their service.
Governor Greg Abbott: (35:38)
Thank you. Now for questions.
Speaker 5: (35:39)
Guys, you want to line up at the microphone [inaudible 00:35:45].
Speaker 3: (35:47)
Thank you. Governor, today Dallas County extended their stay at home order into mid-May. As you start to roll back the restrictions, do counties, local entities, do they have a latitude to be doing this or does this concern you?
Governor Greg Abbott: (36:03)
Well, as you know, I will be issuing a new executive order on April the 27th. Right now, the statewide stayed home order remains in effect through April the 30th. On April the 27th, I will be making a new order for the state going forward and there will either be portions of that or all of that, that have statewide application. The extent to which it falls into either of those two categories will be determined between now and April the 27th. To the extent that my executive order has statewide application, it would overrule any local jurisdiction determination about their executive order.
Speaker 4: (36:53)
Governor, excuse me, the appointment of the task force, strike force on Friday, it’s been noted that there are people with whom you have a very high comfort level. A lot of them had been contributors to your campaigns. Most of them are CEOs or presidents of corporations, and I guess my question is since we’re all in this together, it seemed like there was not a lot of representation from small business or local elected officials or workers. And I also wondered if you could tell us a little bit about the process of selecting the chairman and the CEO, particularly Mr. Toomey who has a background as a lobbyist and along political pedigree. I didn’t know whether you thought about someone who might kind of rise above the political level for that kind of assignment.
Governor Greg Abbott: (37:44)
Oh, we had one objective in that type of assignment, and that is a person who knows how to deliver quick results. That requires somebody who was thoroughly familiar with capital operations, with every nook and cranny of every agency in the state of Texas, who understands the budget process in the state of Texas, who understands the budget process of drawing down funds from the federal government and applying those funds on a statewide basis. Someone who has years and decades of service of working in this state. Someone who has served as a chief of staff for two governors in the past and has a knowledge based upon that but, important to me, someone who was not a registered lobbyist, and that’s why Mike Toomey took status of de-registering as a lobbyist.
Speaker 4: (38:35)
But wouldn’t he still-
Speaker 5: (38:36)
We got to keep moving here. We got to get other questions.
Speaker 6: (38:42)
Thank you, Governor. I’m puzzled about a couple of things. You mentioned the increases in testing and everything, so I took your new number down, 205,000, I did have the previous number of 190,000 but even if I factor that into an account, we’re only testing one in 141 people. To put it in comparison on neighboring states, Louisiana is test-
Speaker 6: (39:03)
To put it in comparison, our neighboring states, Louisiana is testing one in 33. Oklahoma, they’re the worst, compared to our neighbors one in 99, and New Mexico is one in 54. So how can you possibly claim that we’re ready to open up when we have no idea what we’re dealing with given our neighboring states, at the minimum, are doing 50% better, or doing over 200% better and testing their population?
Governor Greg Abbott: (39:27)
So, we have two things that are taking place as we speak right now. We have this medical team which includes Dr Hellerstedt, Dr Zerwas, in addition to Dr McClellan, and Dr. Parker Hudson. They are working on a testing and tracing strategy that will outline exactly how we’re going to go about the process of doing what is needed to be able to monitor our communities for any potential expansion of COVID 19. That will require an increase of up to anywhere between 25, and 30,000 tests per day, that they feel that would be an adequate number in order to do this. Understanding this, and and that is Dr. Parker Hudson is the person in charge of the UT Dell Medical School for tracing, and tracking COVID 19, and knows exactly what he’s doing, and Dr. Mark McClellan has written so many papers on this. You can even count them all. So they have a grasp for the amount of testing that’s needed.
Governor Greg Abbott: (40:29)
Then also one thing that we know is what the incoming supply of testing capabilities looks like. We have clear visibility with the regard to the number of collection of equipment that is needed, and then the testing equipment that is needed. You have begun to see an outline of some of that today with the addition of 3,500 tests per day just by what the national guard is doing. That does not include the vast amount of inquiries that we’re going to see on the private sector side in the number of tests that are being conducted. It does not explain to you the information that were shared with the governors yesterday by Mike Pence, by Dr. Gerard, by Dr. Burks about the incoming testing capacity, but it does not include the details about the new types of swabs that are being used. It doesn’t include all of the massive increase in the amount of Abbott lab testing that’s going to be used, as well as other new types of testing that’s coming down the pike, and the vast increase in the amount of all that testing.
Governor Greg Abbott: (41:34)
Bottom line is, according to information provided to me by the assessments, by the advisors, in the white house they believe that Texas is going to have all the testing capability that we need. All that said, there’s something that we can agree upon mathematically, and that is Texas has the lowest death rate of almost any state in the United States, death rate connected to COVID 19. Texas has a low and steady rate of hospitalizations as a result of COVID 19. Texans are responding well to the challenge of COVID 19 if there were any type of aberrational, or any type of inefficiency in the testing that we were doing, it would be revealed by sudden inexplicable spikes in the number of people who were being hospitalized, or the number of deaths and we’re simply not seeing that. Deaths continue to trend down, as do positive tests, and hospitalizations remain flat to slightly down. So, all the numbers are trending well.
Speaker 9: (42:48)
Hi, Governor. My question is regarding the first thing you talked about, the oil situation. You mentioned the feds are considering filling their reserves. Is there anything that you have considered, on a state level, of doing to increase the demand in whatever fashion that may be?
Governor Greg Abbott: (43:03)
Well understand this, and that is the oil price as a result of supply, and demand, and the largest problem that is causing this right now is the incredible amount of additional supply that was put on the market by Saudi Arabia, and Russia. By both of them cutting their prices and literally flooding the markets, and the flooding of the market that Saudi Arabia, and Russia are doing right now is yet to show the full force of it. That’s one thing the president worked on, that’s one thing that I worked on with the white house administration, and that is seeing that there’s some type of way that we could blunt that increase in supply that’s hitting the market, knowing that that would have one of the greatest effects on being able to stabilize the price.
Governor Greg Abbott: (43:56)
Second are these other strategies that will absorb some of the additional supply that’s coming in, and those are strategies that the federal government has the best tools about. The only thing that’s really been discussed at the state level, is something you probably are aware of, and that’s what the railroad commission was considering and it’s my understanding that earlier today they made the decision to, I think, postpone an additional hearing on it until the month of may. That’s all I know about what happened, and I haven’t heard [crosstalk 00:44:26]
Speaker 9: (44:26)
…don’t have any thoughts on that, specifically? Okay. All right.
Speaker 10: (44:35)
Hi, Governor. This is a followup to earlier question. Early data shows that the virus has disproportionately impacted nonwhite Texans. Many of them live in low income communities. The team of experts you’ve assembled is made of predominantly white men, many of them can wealthy campaign donors. Given that, how are you ensuring that the interest of those low income and minority communities are represented?
Governor Greg Abbott: (45:04)
Well, first of all, [inaudible 00:45:06] talked about the extent to which those who are affected by it, or minorities, and those who are advising me are wealthy white donors. Understand this, the people who are advising me from the perspective of the medical perspective, they’re doctors, not donors. And so our healthcare approach to all communities is going to be based upon both data, and doctors, and regardless of what business sector they come from. That said, I am concerned about a disproportionate impact of those who either contract or suffer severe consequences from COVID 19 who are representatives of minority communities, and my staff, and I who by the away my chief of staff happens to be an Hispanic. We are working in collaboration to work with members of the Texas House, and Senate to study, and evaluate the impact, and what can be done about that.
Speaker 11: (46:25)
Thank you, Governor. President Trump made comments last night about the possibility of suspending immigration. Are we prepared to handle that here in Texas? And what was kind of your personal reaction to that?
Governor Greg Abbott: (46:36)
Well, what I’ve seen from that is the tweet and my perception of it was something that he is articulated in the past, and that is he wants to do everything possible to contain the spread of COVID 19 in the United States. That was behind his decision to, in agreement with the President of Mexico, with the Prime Minister of Canada, to close the Canadian and Mexican border, who was behind his decision to prevent flights in from Europe, or China, and some other locations. I think, as I interpret what he’s saying, his goal is he wants to enhance his strategies to reduce further importation of COVID 19 until we can gain control of this disease that’s impacted on our country.
Speaker 11: (47:35)
Governor, you often talk about our gratefulness for frontline workers, that includes first responders. There is a push here in Texas to make COVID 19 a presumptive illness for first responders so that they would be covered by line of duty, death benefits, or by workers’ comp benefits. Any reaction to that, or anything that you can say to them at this point?
Governor Greg Abbott: (47:59)
All strategies like that are being looked into.
Speaker 12: (48:07)
Last night, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick doubled down and said there are more important things than living, in that we need to take risks when talking about the importance of reopening the economy, do you agree with this assertion, and if so, does this mean that there is some consideration of possibly accelerating the process of opening businesses, and is there a number of cases, and deaths where you’d be comfortable in accelerating this process?
Governor Greg Abbott: (48:30)
Well, we have already begun to accelerate the process of opening businesses, and it’s on a timeline that we articulated last week, and we’ll be fulfilling here in the coming week. It is a timeline, by the way, so you’ll know that the Lieutenant Governor, and I have spoken about for a long time, so since COVID 19 first arose, the Lieutenant Governor, and I have communicated pretty much every single day, including yesterday, and that includes our discussions about what good timelines are to address opening Texas up for business, and understanding that it needs to be done in conjunction with best advice from some of the best doctors in the United States of America advising us. The good news is we have doctors who are looking at the data, looking at the science, looking at the reduction of the spread, who are working with us on ways that we will be able to begin the process of opening Texas up for doing business.
Speaker 13: (49:41)
The followup to an earlier question, you had talked about how the statewide order overrules local orders, but we’ve seen that the Colleyville mayor Richard Newton had issued a proclamation that goes beyond your order and those will go into effect this Friday allowing for people to eat at restaurant patios, and do you condone orders like that that are in the face of yours, and will you take any action to ensure that they don’t go into effect ahead of your new restriction law on Monday?
Governor Greg Abbott: (50:05)
Well, I had the chance to read his proclamation, and from everything that I could tell what he wrote in that proclamation, he made deference to the executive order that I issued. It seemed like he was writing his policies in a way that tried to parallel, or be in agreement with what was in my executive order. I mean, look at what he said with regard to additional types of medical practices, et cetera. And so to the extent there may be a strategy that he’s implementing that he thinks may be consistent with my executive order. I’m sure my staff will just talk to him, and make sure he understands what is in agreement, which I think much of what was in his proclamation is in agreement with my order, if there’s something not in agreement, we’ll be happy to talk to him about it.
Speaker 14: (50:57)
Thanks guys. Appreciate it.