May 5, 2020
Gov. Greg Abbott Texas Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript May 5: Governor Allowing Salons, Pools to Open This Week
Governor Greg Abbott of Texas held a press conference on coronavirus today, May 5. Abbott said he will allow Texas hair salons, barbershops and pools to reopen Friday and gyms to open May 18. Read all details here.
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Greg Abbott: (00:06)
Thank you all for joining with us here, today. We want to cover a lot of ground. First, I will start out with an update about the numbers as they have shown up today. As of today, the total number of Texans who have been tested for COVID-19 is 427, 210. The total number of people who have tested positive is 33,369. The number of active cases is 15,672. The hospitalizations confirmed are 1,888. The fatalities is 906, and the total number of people who have been tested positive for COVID-19 and who have recovered from that infectious disease is 16,791. So now, for the fourth day in a row, we are increasing the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in relation to the number of people who still have active cases for COVID-19 now, having more than a thousand more people recovered than those who have tested positive. I also want to share with you, the ongoing status that I have as of this morning with regard to availability of things like hospital beds. We show that there still remain more than 19,000 hospital beds available, more than 2,000 ICU beds that are available, and more than 6,600 ventilators that are available. Remember this. There was the requirement to set aside a certain percentage of hospital beds, of ICU units, of ventilators during the early stages of our response to create to make sure that we would have those facilities available for anybody who tests positive for COVID-19. Remember also that pursuant to my most recent executive orders, we have allowed doctors and hospitals and other health care providers to begin to utilize those hospital facilities for the treatment of other types of patients unrelated to COVID-19. And as a result, what you should be seeing here in the coming days and coming weeks is a decrease in those number of hospital beds that are available because those beds and those facilities should be going to patients with other types of diseases and health care challenges.
Greg Abbott: (02:57)
Remember this, and this is so incredibly important. While we have been responding to every health care need of those who test positive for COVID-19, there have been some who may need to be diagnosed for cancer, they may have needed to be diagnosed for heart disease or similar type of physical ailment. It is so important that anybody with any type of health care ailment whatsoever, especially those elements that could be life-challenging, that they have access to the doctors, the hospitals, and the health care they need. And that is why it is so important that this most recent executive order unleashes the doctors, the nurses, and the hospitals to be able to provide that type of health care that our fellow Texans need. And now, they’re going to have it, and we will continue to monitor these as I will show you momentarily, why we are monitoring them so closely and why these numbers are important.
Greg Abbott: (03:53)
One thing I want you to know is that as you can see from numbers, including the numbers from today, the amount of testing that takes place in the State of Texas continues to ramp up. We’re not quite there yet, but the number of testing continues to ramp up. Today, the total number of Texans tested was 19,000. But get this, in the past two weeks alone, Texas has done more than half of the total testing that’s been accomplished since this pandemic began in the State of Texas. So put it this way, from March the 1st to April the 20th, there were 190,000 people who were tested for COVID-19. Since that time, there has been well over 220,000 tested. And as a result, that is demonstrative of the rate of increase that we have going forward.
Greg Abbott: (04:57)
In addition to that, something that you will hear more about lately, and that is one of the many reasons why testing is going up is because the National Guard has been doing a fabulous job of crisscrossing the entire State of Texas to make sure that the more remote areas of Texas as well as the urban areas of Texas will be receiving testing. You’re going to hear a lot of discussion today, later on, that should provide you more detail about the counties, large and small, across the entire state that have received testing recently.
Greg Abbott: (05:29)
Yesterday, we had one of our twice-a-week phone calls with the Vice President, as well as with Dr. Birx, as well as with Dr. [inaudible 00:05:40]. The reason why Dr. [inaudible 00:05:42] is important here is because Dr. [inaudible 00:05:44] is one of the people who was in charge of the testing operations taking place in the States.
Greg Abbott: (05:51)
One of the main topics that was discovered yesterday in our phone conversation with the Vice President with Dr. [inaudible 00:05:58], with Dr. Birx, is what the federal government is doing working with the States to increase the testing that is taking place, and here is what they said. They said that they are increasing both swabs as well as other testing supplies across the country. Their goal is to test 2% of the population of each state, every month. That would be approximately 600,000 Texans per month just pursuant to this one testing regimen that is provided by the federal government. And then today, the CDC said that it will send 750,000 collection swabs to Texas between now and June, the 1st. Now, we can go to that data.
Greg Abbott: (06:49)
So there is certain data that I use that I wanted to share with you, so you can understand exactly what it is that I’m tracking to see how Texas is progressing. I’m showing you this data that is hinged to the date that I made the announcement to begin to open up business in Texas.
Greg Abbott: (07:10)
So one of these lines, the middle line is for that date. The top line is one week before that. The bottom line is one week after that. Obviously, it doesn’t have today’s number in there, but I wanted to show you, basically, what we see, not just day-to-day, but also what I look at week-to-week to see how Texas is doing.
Greg Abbott: (07:31)
So looking at column number one, you see vertically that the column of the people who have been tested and you can see right there, between April the 20th to May the 4th, in that two-week time span, we more than doubled the number of people who are being tested. So that is a good thing, but it’s so critically important that people understand that just the number of tests in and of themselves is not all that meaningful of information, and I’ll explain more why.
Greg Abbott: (08:05)
The next column says new tested. Those are the number of people who were tested that day. So on April, the 20th, there were 7,774 tested. As of the day I made the announcement to open up business in Texas, there were about 14,496 tested. And then, as of yesterday, more than 16,000, almost 17,000 people tested. Again, good progression, always an increase in those tested. Again, the number tested is important. But as a number standing alone, that number is meaningless. That number is relative only to context and the same is true with the next number I will give you.
Greg Abbott: (08:47)
You will see going back to April, the 20th, there were 553 who tested positive. You’ll see when I issued my executive order, last week, it was 666. And then as of yesterday, 784 who tested positive. That brings us to the next column, which is one of the most important data points that we look at, and that is the percentage of the people who were tested who test positive for COVID-19.
Greg Abbott: (09:16)
As you can see, back on April, the 20th, the percentage of the people who were tested who tested positive was 7.2%. Then, that number went down to 4.6% on the day that we made the announcement, and 4.65% as of yesterday. Anything below 7.2% is going to be a good number, remembering this and that is if you were to go back earlier in the April time frame, you would have seen that the positivity test rate was closer to 10%. In fact, sometimes over 10%. If the positivity test rate is more than 10%, that’s one of those red flags that we begin to look at. Not if it’s just a one-off day of testing more than 10%, but if there are multiple days and a trend line begins by getting us back up to a 10% positive ratio of those being tested and the being tested positive, that is a warning flag for us to keep track of.
Greg Abbott: (10:15)
So one thing that I look at every single day is what is the percentage rate of those who were tested who test positive? And so, here is what this means when it says 4.65. What that means is that more than 93%, or actually more than 95%. More than 95% of the people who were tested, test negative.
Greg Abbott: (10:42)
Know this, as you’re going to hear later, we’ve been spending a lot of time in areas where there is a high positivity rate. It could be at meat packing plants. It could be at jails. It could be at senior centers, where we are going in to try to identify everybody in those settings who may have tested positive. And despite concentrating on areas where we think there may be a high level of number of people who could test positive, the fact remains that more than 95% of the people who were tested, test negative.
Greg Abbott: (11:14)
And so, we have a lot of people in this state, who say, “Well, we need to test far more people.” The fact of the matter is there’s people who are in Texas who have no symptoms whatsoever, who have no need to go up to a testing site to be able to be tested. And as a result, those who are testing positive remains low.
Greg Abbott: (11:35)
Another number that is very important in our analysis of how well the state is responding to this challenge is hospitalization rate, and you get that rate by going through these numbers. So look at hospitalizations per day. Go back to April, the 20th. Obviously, it was 1,411. On the day that I made the executive order, opening up Texas for business, it was 1,563. As of yesterday, it was 1,533.
Greg Abbott: (12:07)
The fact is that if you were to go back and look at these numbers over about a month time span, you will see that those numbers on average are fairly the same. There will be some days when it’ll be 100 or 200 more, some days where it could be 100 less, but it’s been on the positive or negative side, around the mid 1,500 level, the whole time. However, understand this important fact, and that is over that same period of time, where the number of hospitalizations have remained on average, roughly the same, the total active cases have increased. So go back to April, the 20th, and you see the total number of active cases at 13,257. Then, look at when I made my executive order last week, it was just a little bit more, 13,464. Then, look at yesterday, when it was 15,358. So if you were to look at the total number of new positive tests, going back to the third column, you would see, well, that’s an all-time high of 784. You would see that the total number of people tested was an all-time high. But yet, you’ll see that the total number of active cases was at an all-time high there, but during those highs, you actually see the hospitalization rate decline from 10.6. It went back up to 11.6. now, down to 10.10%. Actually, it was 0.998%. And so, my point is this, even though we’re testing more people, even though more people are testing positive, even though hospitalization numbers fluctuate, the hospitalization rate has remained steady or steadily declining. What that tells us is that Texas is fully capable of being able to manage the health care needs of everybody who contracts COVID-19. There has never been any evidence whatsoever that Texas either has or will be facing the types of challenges that we’ve seen in places like New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, or so many of these other places where they were scrambling to amass the resources that were needed to respond to COVID-19. My point is simply this, Texans as a people, Texas health care providers as a group have done a remarkably effective job of responding to COVID-19 to ensure that we minimize the impact in our state and minimize the necessity to tap into our hospitalization rates. Another thing, very important when we go to this next slide, and that is the positive test rate is also declining. So we are testing more people, as I pointed out. So as a result, the number of people who test positive is going up. But importantly, the positive test rate is going down. As you can see on that slide, since April the 15th, we’ve cut the positive test rate in half from 15.52% to 5.76%, and that’s all for that slide.
Greg Abbott: (15:37)
As I mentioned also, the total number of recoveries has improved daily and has now surpassed the number of active COVID cases for the past four days. Now, more than a thousand more people have recovered from COVID, more than the number of people who have active COVID cases. Texas ranks third in the United States in the most recoveries from COVID-19.
Greg Abbott: (16:07)
Now, it must be emphasized, the positive results that we are seeing are the result of one thing, and that is that Texans have been following guidelines about safe practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19. They have been following distancing practices. They have been wearing masks. They have been avoiding crowds and they have been sanitizing their hands, all of the right strategies. Every single Texan has the full capabilities themselves to make sure they do not contract COVID-19 by practicing these very simple strategies.
Greg Abbott: (16:46)
Now, that’s important. It’s important for this reason. Even though we have slowed the spread in the State of Texas, even though our numbers with regards to hospitalizations and those testing positive, they all look good. The fact remains this, as it stands today, there still is no cure for COVID-19. There will be cures, and immunizations, and medicines that can be taken for COVID-19 in the future. But between this point and the point in time when those cures and medical treatments will be available, we must find a way to bridge that divide.
Greg Abbott: (17:26)
So we’ve done it by the fact that we have shown that essential businesses can operate while slowing the spread. Remember this important fact, and that is before my executive order on April, the 27th, to open up businesses to begin to increase economic activity in the State of Texas, long before that, going back to the time of my essential services order, there were many essential services operating in the State of Texas, whether they be grocery stores, restaurants for carryout purposes, hardware stores, industrial manufacturing facilities, construction, all different types of activities like that. Those businesses were operational at a time while COVID-19 spread was being reduced.
Greg Abbott: (18:17)
So we can open up business if we follow those same strategies those businesses were using, and that’s exactly what we need to do. By following those same safe strategies, we can also show that we now can have nonessential businesses operate while still containing the spread of COVID-19. Our ability to show that we can coexist with COVID-19 depends on ongoing efforts and good hygiene to continue to slow the spread.
Greg Abbott: (18:53)
So it’s up to Texans, whether or not we remain open and in fact open up even more. Or alternatively, if actions have to be taken that would lead to greater containment in certain areas. If Texans stop using the distancing strategies that they have been utilizing over the past month, they will cause an increase in COVID transmission. If that happens, it could lead to some counties having to impose stricter standards.
Greg Abbott: (19:28)
Well, one thing I want to do today is to make some clarifications and modifications to the executive order that I issued, last week. So there was one thing contained in our executive order last week that there was some uncertainty about, but it was still contained in the executive order and it involves funerals, memorials, and burials. And then, I’m going to add to it, something that was not in that executive order, and that is weddings. So for funerals, memorials, burials, and weddings, they are all…
Greg Abbott: (20:03)
So for funerals, memorials, burials and weddings, they are all treated the same as church services that have limited seating arrangements. And you’ll need to go back into the guide that issued at that time to see what those seating arrangements are for church type gatherings. Understand this and that is whether it be for attending church or attending a funeral, memorial, burial or a wedding, we strongly encourage at- risk populations to try to watch or participate remotely remembering this very important point.
Greg Abbott: (20:38)
And that is almost 75% of the deaths from COVID-19 in the state of Texas are a result of people contracting COVID-19 who are age 65 and older. We can go so far to reduce deaths in Texas if we do even more to protect the most vulnerable 65-year-old and older population from being exposed to COVID-19. And that requires in part that people in that age cohort try to remain at home if at all possible.
Greg Abbott: (21:13)
So in addition to that, for funerals, memorials, burials of weddings, for the vulnerable population, we would also recommend the provider of those services to consider designating an area for the at-risk population. Additionally, the standards that are applied to churches that apply to these types of settings, now they include alternating rows, meaning skipping a row and trying to have an area of six feet spacing between parties.
Greg Abbott: (21:47)
One individual from a household may sit with another individual from a household or I’m sorry from another household. Otherwise, limit seating to household gatherings alone. Now for weddings, we want to make sure that at wedding receptions, the same type of practices are used at wedding receptions as are currently used with regard to restaurants that are open. That would mean generally 25% of listed occupancy. No tables more than six. Keeping seat space at least six feet from other tables and maintain six feet separation between parties. Bottom line is for wedding receptions, go look at what the standards are for restaurants and comply with those standards.
Greg Abbott: (22:33)
Another clarification that I want to provide based upon the executive order that I issued last week. If you recall, there had been an executive order about being able to walk around in parks. And in that executive order, one thing that we removed for the previous order was the need to wear a mask when you’re in a park. We said we highly recommend that people wear a mask, but there would be no mandate or penalty, or anything like that have you failed to do so.
Greg Abbott: (23:08)
Remembering the fundamental premise and that is if you wear a mask, you are ipso facto decreasing the possibility that you will be contracting COVID. That said, we want to make sure we clarify what the standard is for park-like settings. That includes the beaches, lakes and rivers, including river rafting. All of those categories. The categories of beaches, lakes, rivers, including river rafting, aren’t to be treated with the very same standard as parks are to be treated.
Greg Abbott: (23:41)
So maintain at least six feet separation from others where possible, who were not within the same group. Groups at beaches, parks, lakes and rivers may not exceed the greater of the number of members from a household or up to five individuals who traveled together. Also, I want to provide further clarification on restaurants. So for restaurants there was a and is a sitting capacity limitation of 25% that applies to indoor seating. It does not, however, apply to outdoor seating.
Greg Abbott: (24:21)
If seating is outdoors, however, the same distancing standards are required as are imposed for indoor seating. Now in my remarks last week, I said this. I said that we wanted to see certain operations open up as soon as possible, including barbershops, hair salons, bars and gyms. And I said at that time, that we were working with our medical team and the industry to open these as soon as possible.
Greg Abbott: (24:54)
Well, beginning that day after I issued that executive order, we went to work that day and every day since then working with local businesses and industry leaders in these businesses. And we are grateful that so many small business owners for what they did in working with us to try to hammer out some strategies that met with the approval of our medical team.
Greg Abbott: (25:21)
With that in mind, effective May the 8th this Friday, cosmetology salons, barbershops, hair salons, nail salons and tanning salons are able to open. There are rules in the best policies manual that we have provided that all of these should consult. Here’s a summary of some of them. One customer per stylist unless the individual is waiting for service. You can only wait inside if they maintain social distancing of at least six feet from others.
Greg Abbott: (26:01)
We recommend using an appointment system only. If allowing walk-ins, only wait inside if they can maintain a distance of six feet from one another. Otherwise, waiting should occur outside or in a person’s vehicle. Operating stations should be limited based upon the ability to maintain six feet separation between the stations. And we strongly recommend for both customers and for stylists that they wear face masks.
Greg Abbott: (26:35)
Listen, one of the apprehensions and concerns about opening up barbershops and hair salons and similar types of businesses was the fact that the people operating the business as well as the customer, they’re very close to each other as that service is provided. The only safe way that you can go about providing this service while ensuring that we’re doing everything possible to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 would be for both the person providing the service and the customer wearing face masks.
Greg Abbott: (27:06)
So once again, detail operation instructions are provided both online and in the handbook, that these operations should consult before opening up their facility. And let me go back and make this point clear. Just like I said last week when issuing the executive order opening up business. This allows these types of businesses to open up. It doesn’t require them to do so. So I mentioned May the 8th this Friday as a time when they can open up and understand that, that some maybe think, “Well, there’s no way I can be opened up by them. There’s too much I have to do.” And that’s completely understandable.
Greg Abbott: (27:45)
Or they may think, “Well, I’m afraid about my health being exposed and hence I don’t want to open up.” That’s fine. No one is being required to open up. Every owner of every salon should use their own best judgment about when is it going to be best for them to safely open, whether it’s May 8th or sometime after May the 8th. Making sure they will be able to maintain the quality standards that are expected of them, so that they are effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Greg Abbott: (28:18)
Now we’ve also had the ability to work pretty much on a daily basis and talking to owners and operators of gyms and exercise facilities. Finding out what strategies work, finding out the types of sanitation activities they do have, and where sometimes they don’t have adequate sanitation practices. And we know that these proprietors or these operations, they have a need for the income, but also they have the ability to provide their service in a way that will not cause someone to contract COVID-19.
Greg Abbott: (28:55)
As result, we are going to allow gyms and exercise facilities to open up beginning May the 18th based upon these guidelines. Initially, that can open up to 25% capacity for the gym component. What I mean by that is that, there are some type of gym and exercise business operations where they don’t do so within a gym. They may do so outside. And obviously if you’re outside, you can’t have a 25% capacity because who knows exactly what that means?
Greg Abbott: (29:29)
What you have to do is you have to maintain safe distancing practices if you’re outside making sure people are not close enough where they can transmit COVID from one person to another. As it concerns gyms, for the initial time period until we’re able to both get better strategies and get better control of COVID-19, showers and locker rooms must remain closed during this first phase.
Greg Abbott: (29:58)
Again, detailed standards will be provided and here are a few. All equipment must be disinfected after each use. Customers should wear gloves to cover the whole hand and fingers. So why this? Obviously, one of the reasons is when people touch their hands on a piece of equipment and then they touch their face, they could transmit the COVID-19 germ and hence contract COVID-19.
Greg Abbott: (30:27)
Customers should wear gloves that cover the whole hands and fingers. As I mentioned, they must maintain six feet social distancing inside a gym. If individuals bring equipment such as a yoga mat or something like that inside a facility, it must be disinfected both before and after use. And again, there are more instructions provided online.
Greg Abbott: (30:52)
Now bars is another area that we want to open. We want to open because we know the customers like it, but also we want to open because we know that bar owners desperately need to open up in order for them to have some level of income for them to pay their bills. But the fact is that we are still working on safe ways to establish safety distancing at bars. To some extent, you could make an argument that a bar could be set up in the same way that a restaurant is set up, where you have just say a small limitation on the number of people who sit together with safe distancing.
Greg Abbott: (31:27)
And that could be a strategy that could be employed by some bars, but we also need to recognize kind of the very nature of a bar. And that is it brings people close together, not in a closed space in a setting that really is the type of setting that promotes the transmission of infectious diseases. So what we need to do is just as we showed that we could work very rapidly with regard to responding to hair salons and barbershops.
Greg Abbott: (31:57)
We want to hear from bars about the types of strategies that you can use. Understanding this key point, not all bars are the same. Some bars would be massively large and could easily set up operations that would be able to effectively employ distancing strategies. What about small bars? How would you operate that way, in ways that would ensure that you are preventing the transmission of COVID-19? We need to hear details about all different types of issues like that, that we can run by our doctors, that we can make better assessments so we can open up bars again as quickly as possible.
Greg Abbott: (32:37)
Now, another category that I want to provide some clarification on. Before my last executive order, manufacturers were considered to be providing essential services. But there was some lack of understanding about maybe what would be categorized as non-essential manufacturers. And so we want to make sure that non-essential manufacturers have the ability to open up also. They will be allowed to open up effective May the 18th.
Greg Abbott: (33:09)
Let me explain to you why the 18th for them as well as for gyms. The reason is in our discussions with these manufacturers, they can’t just turn it on, on a day’s notice. It takes days in order for them to do several things. One is to get their facility safe enough. The other is for them to be able to get their employees up and running again. But whenever you open up a business, there are ancillary businesses that also must be open such as the sanitation component of your business.
Greg Abbott: (33:44)
The people who will clean up the business operations. The people who will be in charge of janitorial control. All of these other different things and strategies involved in how a business operates. Because they may not have the capacity to get those up and running immediately. There needs to be some time period in which they have to be able to get all their strategies in place to be prepared to open up.
Greg Abbott: (34:08)
So they will be allowed to open up effective May the 18th, with a 25% occupancy limitation where they staggered workforce. Meaning that some people can come in and work during some hour period like for one eight-hour period, another come in for another eight-hour period or stagger different ways. People come in at two hour segments, whatever strategies work best to make sure you’re not having everybody congregate going through the same door all at the exact same time.
Greg Abbott: (34:40)
Also, for these non-essential manufacturers it is important they maintain six feet separation between individuals. If that cannot be done, they must employ social engineering controls like plexiglass between workstations. Now also we want to expand the businesses that can open up that are located in office buildings. Now they too will be able to open beginning May the 18th under certain circumstances.
Greg Abbott: (35:11)
Here again, one reason behind May the 18th is because there will need to be janitorial services. They’ll need to be other services employed in that building. It’s going to take a while for the owners and operators of that building to be able to get all of the different types of staff that are needed up and running to be in place by the time the building opens up.
Greg Abbott: (35:33)
So the circumstances that businesses located, office buildings will be required to meet is they can open up to the greater of either of these two numbers. Either the greater of five employees or 25% of the workforce provided that the employees maintain appropriate social distancing.
Greg Abbott: (35:53)
Now listen, I’m going to transition into the next big subject area, but I want to put some context to it. Because it’s very important for everyone in Texas to understand both where we are and where we’re going. We know that as we began the opening up process, we need to be prepared for flare ups in certain regions. There could be outbreaks of COVID-19 in one of various different types of places. And I want you to know we are ready for that.
Greg Abbott: (36:29)
We have teams that are organized and they have strategies in place. And actually as we are meeting today, they’re working on these very types of mitigation strategies where there is a flare up. So these are called surge response teams that will deal with flareups. They’re led by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Health and Human Services Commission and as well as the Texas National Guard, the Texas military division.
Greg Abbott: (36:57)
They will surge areas with elevated COVID-19 and use tactics to eliminate and reduce those flare ups. They’ll do things like provide more PPE, more testing supplies, and they will work to enhance healthcare capabilities in those areas. They will also work with local officials to put in place health and social distancing standards to contain the flare ups. Let me give you some examples of these and then I’m going to hand it over to the team leaders where they can explain more to you. But areas that we’re looking at that people know well about because we’ve been talking about for the past few days are meat packing plants.
Greg Abbott: (37:35)
There is a challenge in the panhandle because of the either A. Several meat packing plants up there. This led to a high level of coronavirus spread in Moore County, which just North of Potter County and Randall County. Potter and Randall is where Amarillo is located in the County just North of Amarillo is Moore County. And people in that entire region are affected by a larger percentage spread of the coronavirus than what we’re seeing in most of the other parts of the state of Texas.
Greg Abbott: (38:09)
Hence, there is a need for a surge response team to go in there and provide all the resources there are needed to get that area under containment. Similarly, we are focused on jails and particularly senior centers. There are some senior centers in certain locations of the state that require a response that we’re involved in right now. We know there may be others in the future. We are prepared for the others in the future to make sure that we are responsive wherever there are flare ups.
Greg Abbott: (38:41)
And then there’s a fourth category and that is a category that doesn’t fit with any of those other three. It could be a particular zip code, it could be an office space, it could be related to a school setting, it could be any type of setting. But because of the capabilities we now have, we have the ability to detect these flare up areas. We can see the data and see what is happening on a day-to-day basis to monitor this and then we have the capability of responding to it and I want you to know more about it and hence we have the team leaders in charge of that. Chief Nim Kidd, I’ll first pass it off to you.
Chief Nimm Kidd: (39:18)
Thank you, Governor. Thank you for the overview. Let’s go to the next slide real quick. How’s that? Everybody good back there? I don’t want to get too close to him. So we’ll talk real quick. This is the personal protective equipment that has been distributed within the last week in Texas. This is PPE that has been bought through the strike force working out of the state operation center.
Chief Nimm Kidd: (39:42)
You’ll see 4.9 million masks have been bought and distributed to hospitals, first responders now moving into private practice physicians and starting to move into dentist office as well as nursing homes. Your face shields, they’re 265,000 and 262,000 gloves. Another 16,000 gowns and 38,000 coveralls.
Chief Kidd: (40:03)
… another 16,000 gowns and 38,000 coveralls. Again, this is PPE bought by the state of Texas to be distributed into the private sector and the first responders. Next slide, please.
Chief Kidd: (40:13)
This is total PPE from the beginning. 22 million masks. Now those are in N95 masks, KN95 masks, surgical masks, and then other cotton masks that we brought in. Again, distributed to our first responders, to our hospitals, to our nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and scattered out now into our private practice physicians offices. You’ll see 1.8 million face shields, another 7.5 million gloves, 237,000 gowns, and another 173,000 coveralls. Next slide.
Chief Kidd: (40:48)
FEMA has also been working hard to bring an air bridge into Texas, and what that means is you’ve seen the reports from FEMA, there are 177 flights that have come in. The numbers here are March 1st through May 1st of distribution from the FEMA air bridge, and this is important, into the six major distributors in the private sector. So those six major distributors are distributing that to their normal customers and clients, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, EMS, first responder agencies, as well as private practice physicians.
Chief Kidd: (41:22)
You’ll see 30 million masks from the FEMA bridge in Texas. You’ll see 587,000 face shields, 769 million gloves, and another 14.3 million gowns. So overall, while we feel the supply chain is starting to refill, we know that there’s still a lot of work to do. As the materials come into our warehouse, we’re distributing it continuously on a daily basis around the clock. Next slide, sir.
Chief Kidd: (41:51)
So total distribution between what the state has done and what FEMA has done, 53 million masks, 2.4 million face shields, 777 million gloves, and 14.5 million gowns. Now, the three of us here and General Norris and HHSC Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson are kind of going to go through these next slides together, to show the unison and the partnership of what we’re dealing with. So General Norris will take this next slide and talk about the Texas military department, and the mobile test collection update.
General Norris: (42:24)
Thanks, Chief. Currently, the Texas National Guard has 3079 soldiers and airmen on duty right now, and as you see on this slide, currently 1262 of those are dedicated to the mobile test collection. We’ve collected over 11,000, close to 12,000 specimens, and we’re in 158 counties, and there’s a slide down the road that’ll show the counties in the next couple of days that will be at. We have a call center which has been expanded from about 70 to 124 military personnel, who are answering the phones. You can see the volume there, so we’re getting close to 42,000 total call volumes. The call center starts at 0800 every morning. There is a wait time of about six minutes. We are working to get that time down. I know one day we did have it a minute, 14 seconds was the wait, and then also again showing the by appointment only and the phone number in order to make appointments across the state for a test.
Chief Kidd: (43:34)
I’ll take that back.
General Norris: (43:34)
Chief Kidd: (43:34)
I promise you, we will clean this before we touch it again. You’ll see the 158 counties that General Norris mentioned, and over 11,000 collection sites taken there. And you’ll see over the next two days, these are the counties that we will be going into or going back into, to continue to do testing from the mobile teams. Now I think it’s important that we point out this slide. This is only what we’re doing with the Texas military department teams that are in the field. We know that there are additional locations, of which we’ll talk about on the next slide that you can get a COVID 19 test.
Chief Kidd: (44:05)
So this website here is very important. I think we’ve done a pretty decent job of trying to get this website out, Governor, but I’m talking to people every day that don’t know that this site exists. So COVID test, C-O-V-I-D- T-E-S-T, dot tdem, T-D-E-M, dot Texas, T-E-X-A-S, dot gov, is the website you can go to to find this. It’s an interactive map. It will find your location on your smartphone or tablet, and it will tell you within one miles to 100 miles how many COVID 19 testing locations are available to you.
Chief Kidd: (44:37)
You can slide the scale back and forth by dropping the pin or adding your address in there. Each one of these icons there is a location. When you mouse to that location and click on it, it will give you the name of the location, the address of the location, the telephone number of the location, the hours of operation of the location, and it will tell you if you need a physician’s prescription, or if you can come in without an appointment. We really need your help in getting this message out there. There were 424 locations available today in the state of Texas to go get a COVID 19 test. Next slide.
Chief Kidd: (45:10)
I’ll talk a little bit, and the three of us will share this surge response team that the governor mentioned. Our goal is to quickly respond to any outbreak in any location, and so you’ll see the Texas Division of Emergency Management, our Texas Military Department, our Health and Human Services Commission, the Department of State Health Services, our Emergency Medical Task Force, which are the true heroes out there. They’re our frontline responders, organized together and responding to support us. And then one of our close associates, BCFS Health and Human Services. You’ll see the venues served there are nursing homes, prison, packing plants, and really any other location that gets identified. Next slide.
Chief Kidd: (45:51)
Phil, you want to talk?
Phil Wilson: (45:51)
Thanks, Nim. Good afternoon everyone, my name is Phil Wilson. So math tells a story. I think that’s interesting, there’s a lot of statistics up here today about where things go, and through the surge teams, we’re able to tell a story and see what’s taking place. So far, we’ve had 47 surge teams go out, and they’ve gone to places all over the state. They’re taking testing equipment, they live in onsite staffing, they’ve done assessments. And all of those things are part of where we’ve seen these particular hotspots take place. I’d like to spend a minute talking about the search teams related to nursing facilities and longterm care and doing that math tells a story as well.
Phil Wilson: (46:33)
So in Texas, as you know and have heard before, we’ve got about 1220 nursing homes in the state. So far, about 20% of those have had at least one positive test. What’s interesting about that as well, of that one, 13% have had a resident [inaudible 00:46:50] It’s a lower common denominator, which means some of these isolation techniques are working to keep people protected. So the total amount of people, facilities, is 243 facilities, have had a person test positive of the 1220. Our total positive nursing home population and long term care is about 13,250. So Governor, about a third, a little more than that in our state have been in these vulnerable and more at risk populations. So we know where the surge teams need to go.
Phil Wilson: (47:23)
And where we need to focus our efforts as part of that. Of the 47 surge team efforts so far, about 20 have gone to nursing facilities. And we show up because they ask. And how they’re arranged is as such, we have eight locations across the state where these are teams that are dealing with the HPPs, which are the hospital preparedness program, and they work with the racks. And that call comes in through HHSC, and through Dish together partnership. And we go launch those teams to show up. There are about five to six people per team. These eight teams are lined up and more resources ready to go as necessary with paramedics who were really good at going into this facility, and they’ve had this first thing. And we had insisted on everyone getting tested. The staff, the residents, they can look if someone’s sick or not sick, that may be showing symptomatic signs, and immediately segregate those two groups of people to create as much isolation as possible, to create a safer environment.
Phil Wilson: (48:22)
So these surge teams are part of the toolkit which we’ll continue to build up on as we realize that we’ve got that level of population also we’re dealing with. The other thing in addition to the 13,000 is we look at our fatalities. So far, 317 fatalities has been associated with a nursing home. So if you look at the fatality rate compared the overall population, it’s very interesting. About a third again, both in what’s been diagnosed as positive, and where we’ve had fatalities. So a lot of effort will go into, as Chief Kidd talked about, in particular with these congregate care type of situations, whether it’s a nursing home, our state jails and prisons, the meat packing plants where we can surge in, work with those companies, those entities as they need us as part of that process, and to identify where math tells a story. So these surge teams, I want to say thank you to them. They’re doing a tremendous job across the state, at which as Kidd said, they’re a vital part of our success together in partnership with the military, and appreciate all their dedicated efforts dealing with that.
Chief Kidd: (49:28)
Okay. [Seth 00:49:29], if you’ll hit that next slide, it’ll be the next locations. In total of about 45 or more locations right now that we’ve already been into. Next slide.
Chief Kidd: (49:39)
So we’ll talk a little bit about, as Commissioner Wilson mentioned, the components that go into this surge force. And I believe there are really five components of it that we need to centralize on. One is the personal protective equipment that we’ve talked to you about, that we have a good hand on right now. The second is the staff that we’re sending out there to do this assessment and then support. The third is the testing components that come with this, the swabs, the transport medium, the tubes, and then the laboratories on the back end. The next is this facility disinfection team right here, and this will be able to go in and actually support nursing homes, assisted living facilities, to make sure that it is a clean environment, to kill all the COVID 19. And then the fifth is the additional support that BCFS can bring in, which could be additional nursing staff, additional epidemiology staff supported by DSHS, could be additional food service, anybody that we need in working in these facilities, we have additional resources to bring in for that. General, do you want to talk a little bit about your additional disinfection teams?
General Norris: (50:41)
Yes, Chief, thanks. So as of yesterday, we started pulling our teams together. We’re going to start with 250 individuals that will be divided up into teams and there’ll be in support of the surge response teams. There’ll be trained, and then they’ll have the appropriate PPE, and then will be given direction of how to assist the surge response teams. And this actually… We’re using a technique that we looked at with the Georgia National Guard that worked very well for Georgia.
Chief Kidd: (51:11)
Next slide, Seth. [Inaudible 00:51:17]
General Norris: (51:17)
[inaudible 00:51:17] So this overall a summary of how your Texas Military Department, which is your Texas National Guard, is supporting the response. We’re operating out of 13 armories, which are also being used to help with warehouse PPE. They’re in nine food banks, and as you see, we’ve served over 16.9 million meals to families in need. I’ve already talked about the call center and the testing, and then we never really had to use any of the alternate healthcare facilities, due to how our hospitals reacted at the beginning of the response. But the engineers in the National Guard or your Texas National Guard did 112 assessments in case these facilities are needed. And actually all the document of those assessments are going to the county, so they have those for the future.
Phil Wilson: (52:05)
And one thing I did want to add in conclusion, I said [inaudible 00:52:06] the governor touched on this, I think it’s important, is we’re making a very rigorous effort to continue to forecast for the future. So once again, math tells a story. There’s some really smart people who were so supportive of this effort, who were working with Dish and collaboratively as part of the effort with epidemiology about where this might be going next, and what the tell signs of that are. And so the more and quicker we’re able to respond to that, whether it’s a surge team or a mobile testing program, or any other way we get there, working with the private sector as well, that forecasting tool we continue to build upon allows us to know more. Hence the why we test everybody when we go to a nursing home for longterm care. Working with the meatpacking facilities, just talked about our jails and prison, because the more you know where it’s going to go, the more you can stay in front of that. So that’s a great use of technology and people.
Chief Kidd: (52:57)
Thank you, Commissioner. And then wrapping this back up, Governor, before we turn it back over, I want focus a little bit on the panhandle, and Amarillo and the meat packing plants, and conversations with the CDC who has teams on the ground there right now. With USDA, several conference calls over the weekend, continuous improvement, Doctor Hellerstedt’s staff that’s actually in the field up in Amarillo right now working with the mayor there and the local emergency management folks, to get our arms wrapped around the five different plants there that have approximately 12,000 employees. To make sure that they get tested, that the use of the facilities inside is as clean as possible, that the transportation to and from the facilities are addressed, and that the housing needs of those residents that work back and forth in the community, that we’re actively and accurately watching what they’re doing and providing all of the state and federal resources we can to support them. As you’ve heard, these teams are ready to go. We will continue to push them out, and we’re very thankful again for our local officials and first responders that are supporting the effort.
Greg Abbott: (53:54)
Very good. Anything else? All right, Dr. Hellerstedt.
Doctor Hellerstedt: (53:58)
Thank you, Governor. And thank you, General Norris and Executive Commissioner Wilson and Chief Kidd for a really a fantastic summary of where we are. I would just want to remind people that the fight against COVID 19 has been compared to warfare, and I think that’s an apt comparison.
Doctor Hellerstedt: (54:16)
But keep in mind, we have only kept the enemy at bay. It is due to the things that we’ve done so far that we have been able to keep it at bay. Don’t forget for a minute that at the beginning, COVID 19 had the potential to really overwhelm us in a way, and make it so we didn’t have the capacity to take care of the people who got sick with COVID 19. Through the things that you have done, Texas, the care that you’ve shown for one another, the social distancing, the sacrifices that you’ve made, we have managed to keep COVID 19 at bay.
Doctor Hellerstedt: (54:50)
But the war is not over, and in fact the battle is still going on. And so the things that we’re doing as we go forward to open up must always be balanced against doing the things that we’ve talked about to continue to keep ourselves safe. So that is staying at the social distancing as much as we can, working from home if we can, not engaging in activities that really aren’t necessary. But at the same time, we are going to open up Texas and the kinds of guidelines that we’ve created are going to keep the enemy at bay, because we’re going to limit the range. We’re going to still stay out of range of the enemy by using things like face coverings, cloth face coverings and the like, and that hygiene and sanitation that we’ve talked about.
Doctor Hellerstedt: (55:37)
It’s extremely important to not believe for a minute that we’re not still in a fight, and we can’t stop fighting. So keep up the good fight. It’s not over, we’re in a different phase of this battle.
Greg Abbott: (55:53)
Now we want to provide some guidance with regard to graduations at every level of education, as well as some additional education information, and to provide that information is TEA Commissioner Mike Morath.
Mike Morath: (56:11)
Thank you, Governor. In working with the strike force to reopen Texas, having collected feedback from countless numbers of educators, really hundreds if not thousands of teachers, principals, parents, students, a huge number of superintendents actively working to solve problems for kids in their community, school board members, and in consultation with the best medical experts using the latest research on the spread of the virus and the virus properties, we are publishing today guidance that will allow high school graduations, and in fact end of year promotion ceremonies, so think kindergarten graduation ceremonies, to occur in schools subject to certain constraints. And when you think about the way graduation ceremonies could potentially proceed in our current context, we have a huge number of school system leaders that have actively been preparing for virtual graduation ceremonies. Imagine 5,000 people on a Zoom call as it were, and that has been approved for some time.
Mike Morath: (57:21)
But what we are announcing today is additional approvals, one type of ceremony, which many school systems have expressed an interest in, a hybrid ceremony where students come in one at a time, the photo is taken, perhaps a short video of them that’s put together as a seamless video ceremony that can then be streamed as a group, but remote activity. So hybrid ceremonies are approved subject to certain constraints.
Mike Morath: (57:50)
As well, vehicle ceremonies. So going to drive ins, or drive through the town square, that sort of thing are approved. Again, subject to certain logistical constraints based on the best medical evidence to keep people safe. And last but not least, outdoor graduation ceremonies. Think of what you may have seen at the Air Force Academy a few weeks ago, with similar measures. Again, appropriate distancing between people, appropriate distancing between family groups, while maintaining the best procedures to keep each other safe.
Mike Morath: (58:27)
Education as an endeavor for high school students is something that they have spent 13 years of their lives on, with educators pouring love and skill into them over the course of their educational career. It is important that we honor that achievement, as they begin to make a transition to the next phase in life. We’re excited to create guidance that does maintain health and safety for all of our community members and all of our participants, while also honoring students and celebrating the achievements that they have made.
Greg Abbott: (59:03)
Very good. Thank you so much for your hard work on that, and let me just close by once again reemphasizing the very important message that was provided by Dr. Hellerstedt. And that is we applaud our fellow Texans for their sacrifice, for their effort, for their discipline over the past month or two to make sure that Texas was put into a position of being one of the best states in the United States for bending the curve, for being in a position to be able to open up our economy. Our ability to continue that effort will also be hinged to how well Texans respond in the future. You have demonstrated the full capability of doing exactly what you need to do to practice safe distancing, to wear face masks, to wash your hands, to do the kinds of things that will reduce the spread of COVID 19. We urge you to continue to strongly maintain those practices, so that Texas can continue to expand our businesses. We-
Greg Abbott: (01:00:03)
Texas can continue to expand our businesses. We know that no one knows better than entrepreneurs in the state of Texas how to grow a business. And we need to be able to unleash those entrepreneurs. And the best way we can do that is ensuring that they all have the safety standards they need to make sure that they can succeed as we go about doing exactly that. Texas will once again be the leading state in the United States for doing business. With that, we’ll take some questions.
Speaker 1: (01:00:27)
Governor, enforcing businesses that are not in compliance, who’s going to actually enforce that? Who’s maybe looking out for that? Can we report something like that? Or [inaudible 01:00:40]?
Greg Abbott: (01:00:40)
So there are different ways the enforcement takes place. One way is at the local level where they have the authority to do that enforcement. Another is at the regulatory level. Another would be at the state level. So it just depends on what the violation is and who is taking the enforcement action.
Speaker 1: (01:00:59)
That fine that is going to be paid, will that go prospectively paying unto [inaudible 00:01:04]?
Greg Abbott: (01:01:04)
Speaker 2: (01:01:06)
Governor, you said you were listening to doctors as we move forward. The medical experts have said at least two weeks time to judge whether it was opening on May 1st. [inaudible 01:01:16]. So how can you decide that we can safely go without more right now?
Greg Abbott: (01:01:20)
Sure. Name the names of the experts you’re relying upon.
Speaker 2: (01:01:25)
We’ve spoken to a number of-
Greg Abbott: (01:01:26)
Just give me their names.
Speaker 2: (01:01:27)
We talked to Dr. Giancarlo, Dr. [inaudible 00:01:32]. Several in Texas that [inaudible 01:01:33].
Greg Abbott: (01:01:33)
Okay. So I personally talked to Dr. Birx. I personally talked to Dr. Fauci. I personally talked to Dr. Martin McClellan, the former head of the FDA, former head of US Medicaid and Medicare. He is part of the four doctor team we have under staff. I personally talked to Dr. Parker Hudson. Dr. Parker Hudson is an infectious disease specialist in charge of tracing and tracking COVID-19 in Texas. He’s with the University of Texas health system. And I talked to Dr. Hellerstedt. And I talked to Dr. John Zerwas.
Greg Abbott: (01:02:05)
And so I will put their advice up with anybody else. The plan that I announced was looked at by Dr. Birx. And she wrote, this is a quote, “Great plan.” And so how do I know that it’s that we are on an adequate trajectory and this plan fits within that trajectory? Dr Birx herself has said it. All these other doctors have said it. And so there’s always going to be a difference of opinion among doctors.
Greg Abbott: (01:02:37)
Just like all these experts said that Texas was going to have all these massive deaths. It was going to have the high watermark of more than 260 deaths per day. Never turned out to be true. We are operating based upon the numbers that we have had, that I showed you what the trajectory looks like. The trajectory in Texas looks good. The trajectory in Texas satisfies the criteria from the White House advisers, satisfies the criteria of the four doctors that I rely upon.
Speaker 3: (01:03:13)
Governor, it looks there’s 1900 hospitalizations reported today. Is that a one-time blip? Or is that something that’s concerning? I don’t think our numbers have been that high, at least in the last couple of weeks.
Greg Abbott: (01:03:26)
Again, on any of these numbers, whether it be people testing positive or hospitalizations or whatever the other different criteria are, there will be one day blips. There’s going to be ups and downs. There was sheer panic the other day when there were a 50 over people who were fatalities in that particular day. And fatalities now are down to 22 and they’ve been down around that level or close to it for the past couple of days. And so what matters is when you look at means or averages and see where the means or averages are going.
Greg Abbott: (01:04:04)
That said, remember this, we’re going to be testing a lot more people. A lot more people are going to test positive. There could very well be the need for more people needing hospitalization. What matters is not how many people are hospitalized. What matters is what our hospitalization capacity is. The dire circumstances you’ve seen in the United States of America that have been blaring on TV sets night after night after night, first it was Italy. Then it was New York. Then it was New Jersey, Washington state, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit.
Greg Abbott: (01:04:45)
All because they did not have the hospital capacity to deal with the challenges. When you look at the hospital beds we have available, when you look at the ICU units we have available, when you look at the ventilators we have available, we haven’t even begun to tap into our hospital capacity to the healthcare tools that are needed to respond to these challenges. And then again with deaths, one death is one too many. But if you look at the number of deaths, they are far lower in Texas than they are in almost any other state. Yes.
Speaker 4: (01:05:22)
There’s leaked audio of a call that you had with state lawmakers where you did say that with more businesses reopening there could be increases in infection rates. Do you worry that this could have made you seem like you prioritize businesses over lives? Also, with infection rate would you consider a rolling back some of these measures to reopen businesses?
Greg Abbott: (01:05:41)
Sure. I think everybody recognizes, it has been said frequently, that as a society does begin to open up again it could lead to increased infections. And that’s exactly why we have this surge team in place. And that is if infections get out of control, we will be able to quickly respond to it.
Greg Abbott: (01:06:03)
It’s also why both the state as well as local governments have established these test and trace teams. The reason why you have those teams is because as you open up, there will be someone who will test positive and you want to trace it back to see where it began. And so you can test all those people and be able to maintain their isolation so you can minimize the further expansion of COVID-19.
Speaker 4: (01:06:29)
Is there a specific infection rate you had in mind for a possible [inaudible 01:06:33]?
Greg Abbott: (01:06:34)
No particular rate unto itself, but we look at our trends. And again, there could be a one off rate where there’s a meaningful increase for a particular day or two days. What matters are trends. And again, what matters the most are these factors. What matters the most is that we have the medical capability of responding to the healthcare challenges of the people in the state of Texas, including those who test positive for COVID-19. We have an abundance of healthcare facility.
Greg Abbott: (01:07:05)
The thing that would compromise that would be a meaningful, sustained increase in the number of people who are hospitalized. And hence, one of the foremost things we will look at will be hospitalization rates. And there’s another coefficient there that’s important. And that is what is that rate in relation to the overall number of people who are testing positive? The number of active cases. In New York, in some regions, the hospitalization rate was in the 30 or 40 percentile of those who were testing positive. In Texas, it’s remained relatively low.
Greg Abbott: (01:07:42)
Again, you’ve got to look at multiple numbers. There’s no one single number. When you look at the numbers, is our medical capability responding going to be compromised? If so, it may lead to changes in a particular region. It could be a county, it could be part of a county, it could be a region of the state, wherever there could be an outbreak, that they may alter what the dynamics are on the ground in that particular location. But, if you look at where we are now, if you look at how Texans have responded now, and if we were able to maintain that response, we shouldn’t have any challenges.
Speaker 5: (01:08:20)
Governor, does the state have projections on what the infection rate will be with the relaxed orders that are rolling out? As opposed to have the stay-at-home order in place?
Greg Abbott: (01:08:33)
Yeah, I’m going to pass that to Dr. Hellerstedt.
Dr. Hellerstedt: (01:08:41)
Yeah. One of the things I think to keep in mind is we’ve had lots of discussions about modeling, and projections, and things like that. And it’s really important to remember that this is a dynamic situation. So the way I look at the question is, is there the potential that there could be resurgence? Yes, there is. And part of that potential is due to the fact that we have been so successful at keeping COVID-19 at bay. That means fewer people got sick, fewer people got infected. But it also means that as we open up Texas, there’s the still a vast number, the vast majority of people in Texas have not had to COVID-19 and they are susceptible.
Dr. Hellerstedt: (01:09:21)
So is there a possibility of a resurgence? Yes. Will we watch all the trends very carefully? Multiple trends to see if we’re heading in a wrong direction that is going to overshoot and maybe threaten, again, the capacity that we have in the healthcare system to take care of people? We will absolutely watch that.
Dr. Hellerstedt: (01:09:41)
But it comes back to this is not a one way street. We have seen the way the people of Texas have responded to this first challenge, and it worked. And we’re confident that if we lay out for them very effective means to keep COVID-19 under control, they have a great desire to do it. They still want to keep COVID-19 under control. They understand it. And we have great confidence that they will be successful in this next phase.
Speaker 6: (01:10:12)
Governor, the state of Texas doesn’t identify which nursing homes have had infections. Is that part of your discussion? Something that might be reversed later on down the road? Identifying which places that have the infection?
Greg Abbott: (01:10:26)
If I recall correctly, that decision is made by HHSC. And we happen to have the Commissioner here with us right now and we’ll let him answer.
Phil Wilson: (01:10:36)
Thank you. I appreciate the question. That’s based on HIPAA. So we’re being respectful of people’s privacy in various institutions and we’re following the law, medical privacy for that. We’ll give you gross numbers in the sense of infections. And what we’re seeing as far as the testing involved in our surge components, we’re not happy with that. But we’re trying to respect people’s privacy and will respect people’s privacy because that’s the law.
Speaker 7: (01:11:01)
Speaker 8: (01:11:02)
Colleges and universities have said that they plan to reopen in person in the fall. Have you had conversations with those collegiate leaders? In your mind, is it too early to make that assessment here as we’re talking about decisions that can have impact in August/September?
Greg Abbott: (01:11:20)
So I have had the opportunity to speak to leaders of universities and university systems, and it is appropriate that they go through the process right now of making the plans to reopen. They can’t wait until August to begin that planning process. They need to do all the planning so that they will be able to move instantly to make the call about the reopening.
Greg Abbott: (01:11:47)
I don’t know exactly when that moment is where you crossed the rubicon. Probably in July, I would think, sometime. But we will leave it up to the education leaders working with our doctors. As well as working with other education leaders. As well as working with national medical leaders understanding this. And that is when they open up these campuses, it’s not just some local public high school, or something like that.
Greg Abbott: (01:12:16)
They’re involving students from across the country as well as students from other countries. And so they’re going to have to go through the exercise of making assessments about not just how the health standards look in the state of Texas, how they look nationally, how they look in any particular state, how they look at any particular country where a student may be coming from.
Greg Abbott: (01:12:40)
So it’s a complex dynamic issue. But, it is important that they begin going through all that evaluative process at this time so they will be prepared to open up as much as possible. We want them to open up if at all possible. It’s important for the universities. It’s important for the students. It’s important for education. And I know that [inaudible 01:13:02] is looking at the same thing as it concerns opening up public schools in the state of Texas in the August timeframe.
Greg Abbott: (01:13:09)
I will share with you this last thing and then we’re going to go. And that is a recommendation that was made by Dr. Birx in our phone call yesterday. Dr. Birx was talking about the importance of opening up education in the coming fall year. With this thought in mind, this suggestion to just consider. And that is to consider opening up earlier than normal and leave a longer period of time for closure for the winter break.
Greg Abbott: (01:13:43)
With the concern/anticipation being that whether it be the common flu, or the common flu combined with a resurgence of COVID, there may need to be a longer period of time during the winter break to not have students all together at one time. So it’s those types of issues that we constantly look at as we go through that decision-making process. Thank you.