Apr 17, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott Texas Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 17: Plans to Reopen Texas, Close Schools

Greg Abbott Texas Briefing April 17
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsGov. Greg Abbott Texas Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 17: Plans to Reopen Texas, Close Schools

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas held a press conference on coronavirus today, April 17. He announced an executive order to reopen Texas businesses in early May, and said Texas schools will be closed for the remainder of the academic year. Read the full transcript here.

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Governor Greg Abbott: (00:00)
More than 35,000 of them have tragically lost their lives. Economic damage has hit even more Americans than the coronavirus itself. More than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment. More than a million Texans had filed unemployment claims. Businesses have shuttered, paychecks have disappeared. Food bank lines are swelling across Texas as more families seek food that they desperately need. Well, in typical Texas fashion, you have come together to support one another. You’ve made personal sacrifices to ensure that our state slows the spread of COVID-19. You helped to reduce the number of Texans who needed hospital care. You truly helped to save lives.

Governor Greg Abbott: (01:02)
Now, Texas needs you to continue those efforts, but I want you to know that we are especially grateful for the doctors, the nurses, the first responders, and all medical personnel who have been battling on the front line against this invisible enemy. We’re also thankful to the unsung heroes serving as childcare staff, grocery clerks, food service providers, and the folks who clean our hospitals. We’re grateful for president Trump, vice president Pence and the entire Trump administration for being available to me and my fellow governors 24/7 throughout this entire pandemic.

Governor Greg Abbott: (01:44)
Also, I want to recognize the members of the Texas House and Texas Senate for their ongoing leadership and their districts. I want to recognize all of our local leaders for their continued partnership as we collectively respond to the coronavirus in Texas. Because of the efforts by everyone to slow the spread, we’re now beginning to see glimmers that the worst of COVID-19 may soon be behind us. The number of infections and hospitalizations is beginning to level off. We have a steady supply of PPE like face masks. We have plenty of hospital rooms and ventilators to treat our fellow Texans, and the deaths while far too high will not come close to the early dire predictions. I’ll add this, Texas has the second most recoveries from COVID-19 of all states in America.

Governor Greg Abbott: (02:50)
We have demonstrated that we can corral the coronavirus. We continue increasing our testing capabilities to help us identify and care for Texans who have COVID-19. New strategies are being used by private businesses and the public sector to contain the coronavirus. Yes, things like checking temperature, distancing practices, and better sanitation standards, we’ve shown that we can both continue our efforts to contain the coronavirus while also adopting safe standards that will allow us to begin the process of reopening business in Texas.

Governor Greg Abbott: (03:40)
So today I’m issuing an executive order, an executive order that outlines how we go about opening the Texas economy, helping you return to work using the safest standards to contain the coronavirus. Now in opening Texas, we must be guided by data and by doctors. We must put health and safety first. We must prioritize protecting our most vulnerable populations. We will be getting input from medical professionals as well as business and community leaders to determine the safe and sure way to reopen business in Texas without spurring the spread of the coronavirus.

Governor Greg Abbott: (04:29)
To guide this effort, I have formed a statewide strike force to open Texas. The team includes Lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, speaker of the house, Dennis Bonnen, attorney general Ken Paxton and comptroller Glenn Hegar. They are joined by a team of nationally recognized medical advisors who will inform us about the best healthcare standards to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those advisors include the commissioner for State Health Services, Dr. John Hellerstedt . They also include Dr. Mark McClellan. He served both as FDA commissioner and Medicaid and Medicare administrator for the United States of America.

Governor Greg Abbott: (05:15)
It also includes an infectious disease specialist and director of testing and tracing of COVID-19 at the University of Texas Dell Medical School, Dr. Parker Hudson. They include Dr. John Zerwas, the executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System. They will work together to develop a medical architecture to comprehensively test and trace COVID-19 that will enable Texas to gradually and safely begin the process of returning to work and returning to other activities while we wait for the immunizations that will end the threat of COVID-19. Our medical team will work with an advisory committee of successful business and community leaders who will share information and innovative ideas to help businesses strategically reopen while also containing the spread of the coronavirus. They include entrepreneurs like Kendra Scott and Mattress Mack Jim McIngvale, world-renowned tech leaders like Michael Dell and Robert Smith, economic development leaders like Ross Perot and Bob Roland, small business leaders like [Arcelia Acosta 00:06:34] and Massey Villarreal, economic experts like Richard Fisher, the former president and CEO of the Federal Reserve in Dallas, dining and entertainment trailblazers like Tilman Fertitta and [Ballas 00:06:57] Miller at Bill Miller’s restaurants in San Antonio, Texas.

Governor Greg Abbott: (07:02)
Nonprofit organizations leaders like Nancy Kinder and Kirk Watson, the founding Dean of the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs. This team will collaborate with working groups to open up Texas while keeping our communities safe. They will be led by a chairman who has successfully run businesses and knows his way around the Capitol, James Huffines. He will preside over a full-time staff spearheaded by Mike Toomey, a proven chief operating officer who knows how to quickly deliver results. I want you to know that I’ve already begun working with this team about next steps for Texas.

Governor Greg Abbott: (07:49)
James Huffines and the full-time staff have been working around the clock and the team of advisers has already finished their first meeting and they had begun the process of making recommendations. As a result of our combined efforts, I’m issuing executive orders today that will begin the process of opening Texas. Now understand this, opening Texas must occur in stages. Obviously, not all businesses can open all at once on May the 1st. Some businesses, if fully opened without better distancing standards would be more likely to set us back rather than to propel us forward. A more strategic approach is required to ensure that we don’t reopen only to have to shut down once again.

Governor Greg Abbott: (08:43)
First will be openings announced today that include activities that should pose minimal or no threat to expanding COVID-19. Second, additional openings will be announced on April the 27th after further input from the advisors and the medical staff. Third, even more openings will be announced in May when it is determined that the infection rate continues to decline, that hospital capacity remains available and when testing capacities are sufficient to detect and contain outbreaks of COVID-19.

Governor Greg Abbott: (09:28)
The first executive order today establishes the governor’s strike force to open Texas. It sets out the organization and the duties of the strike force. They will gather information and make recommendations about ways that businesses can reopen as well, as the safe practices those businesses should use. My next executive order focuses on doctors, nurses, hospitals and medical staff. Many doctors and nurses have been sidelined because of the need to postpone non-essential medical procedures. That was done to free up hospital capacity and the PPE needed to treat COVID-19 patients. Well, today Texas has plenty of hospital capacity. We have a solid supply chain of PPE and many of our doctors and nurses have patients who desperately need medical treatment. It is time to allow those doctors and nurses to return to work. However, it must be done in ways to ensure that we will be able to treat COVID-19 patients. Adequate supplies of hospital beds and PPE must be maintained to ensure that all COVID-19 needs are met. So effective April the 22nd, which obviously is next week, current restrictions on surgery will be loosened. This will allow doctors to diagnose and treat more medical conditions without needing to get an exception. This one example of this would be a diagnostic test for suspected cancer.

Governor Greg Abbott: (11:24)
Now, while loosening restrictions for doctors, we are enhancing standards to protect our vulnerable seniors who live in nursing homes and assisted living centers. To protect against COVID-19 getting into those living centers, we are requiring infection control policies and we are minimizing the movement of staff between those facilities. Next is my executive order about the retail sector in Texas. Retailers are such an important part of our economy.

Governor Greg Abbott: (12:03)
They provide you with products that you need and want, and they create so many jobs. During our battle with COVID-19 over the past month and a half, we’ve seen some retailers sell products without customers going into stores, and it’s reducing exposure to the coronavirus. You simply order the product, and you can pick it up or have it delivered to you. Because we’ve seen that this probably works while also containing COVID-19, we believe that all stores in Texas should be able to operate retail to go beginning next Friday, one week from today. This temporary plan allows you to be able to access more retailers while also minimizing contact with others. It also sets standards on retailers that ensure safe practices intended to reduce exposure to COVID-19. To learn what those genders are, go to dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus.

Governor Greg Abbott: (13:17)
Next, your physical and mental health are important, especially in times like these. Going to be parks is an effective way to address those things, so state parks will be reopened beginning this coming Monday. Now in order to reduce possible transmission of COVID-19 in state parks, visitors must wear face coverings or mass. Also, the visitors must maintain a distance of at least six feet from people who are not members of the same household. And for now visitors cannot gather in groups larger than five.

Governor Greg Abbott: (14:05)
Today’s executive order also addresses schools. The team of doctors advising us have determined that it would be unsafe to allow students to gather in schools for the foreseeable future. As a result, school classrooms are closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. That includes all public, private and higher education institutions. Now teachers will be allowed in the classroom for video instruction that they choose or to perform administrative duties or to clean out their classrooms. For public education, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath will soon provide more details about how to proceed, and he will explore how to conduct graduation ceremonies. For higher education, Commissioner Harrison Keller will provide similar advice to colleges and universities about how to conclude programs this semester and how to operate semesters this coming summer.

Governor Greg Abbott: (15:13)
Next steps, on Monday, April the 27th we will announce additional ways to open Texas, and these next 10 days we will prepare a phased in strategy to open Texas in a safe way. It will require comprehensive testing and assurance is of hospital readiness for COVID-19 patients. It will focus on containing the risk of resurgence of COVID-19 and protecting our most vulnerable Texans.

Governor Greg Abbott: (15:51)
On April the 27th revised plans will be announced. The new plans will be based on how well contained the COVID-19 is in the state of Texas. The plans will consider standards to protect our vulnerable residents while allowing others to increase their interactions. They will outline which practices are safe for employers to use. They will consider the possibility of opening more venues, venues like restaurants, movie theaters, and other gathering places that can provide safe discussing practices. They will also consider expanding elective surgeries. We will consider in fact all strategies that may open up Texas while also keeping us protected from the expansion of COVID-19.

Governor Greg Abbott: (16:50)
Let me close with this. Texans are battling a colossal challenge, an invisible enemy that has tested our lives and tested our livelihoods. Part of the Texas brand, however, is our ability to overcome challenges. We’ve overcome far more challenges than we can possibly count. Together we can bend the curve. Together we can overcome this pandemic, we can get folks back to work. We can adopt safe strategies that prevent the spread of COVID- 19, and step-by-step we will open Texas. Next, I’ll turn it over to James Huffines.

James: (17:43)
Well, thank you governor. These are indeed unprecedented times, but as Texans have proved time and time again, we are a resilient state and with your leadership, I know we will make it through this together. I am honored to join you and all of the outstanding members of this task force to serve the people of Texas and to help lead our state through this challenge. As the governor said, this team exists to inform him on the best strategies to revitalize the Texas economy and get Texas back to work while protecting, and I’ll repeat, while protecting the health and safety of all Texans. And we have already begun working around the clock to accomplish this mission.

James: (18:33)
It’s clear that all Texans are hurting economically and are ready to get back to work so that they can begin to earn a paycheck again. But I want to reiterate what the governor said. His main point is that slowing the spread of this virus and keeping Texan safe remains our top priority. Every recommendation, every action by the governor will be informed and based on hard data and the expertise of our chief medical advisors. Everything we do will be medically sound. These nationally recognized advisers are leading experts in their fields and we will rely on their knowledge and expertise every step of the way.

James: (19:25)
Joining them will be leaders from all sectors of their economy as well as the public sector leaders. They are experts in their fields ranging from infrastructure, to energy, to education, and economic development. They are already working on innovative solutions to keep Texas businesses reopened while containing the virus. We have a great challenge ahead of us that the governor has assembled a team that is up to this task. This is not something that can be achieved overnight. It will be a gradual process to reopen Texas while at the same time keeping all Texans safe, but I assure you this team will work night and day to restore Texans livelihoods and to keep the Texas economy the greatest in the nation. Thank you, governor.

Governor Greg Abbott: (20:19)
Thank you James. Now, Dr Hellerstedt.

Dr. Hellerstedt: (20:22)
Thank you, Governor Abbott. This is an incredible plan to move forward. Looking at the data from the public health and the medical side, as well as looking at the advice of folks who have great experience in business and economics. We can do it. I think we see around us the evidence that we have slowed the progression of COVID-19, we may not be quite over the hump, but we should take great satisfaction and be very encouraged by the progress that we’ve made so far. COVID-19 did not explode, COVID-19 did not meet the worst predictions that were out there and it’s because of the actions of Texans, so we have the will and the ability to take the steps that are necessary to contain COVID-19, and as we go forward and in Texas, we will require that same discipline in order to be successful while being safe at the same time. Thank you Governor.

Governor Greg Abbott: (21:17)
Thank you. Now, Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick.

Dan Patrick: (21:23)
Thank you governor. A great orator once said, it’s not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning. We may not quite be at the end of the beginning yet, but we are sort of making progress because of 29 million Texans who have joined. That’s really the task force, the strike force, governor, is the 29 million Texas all together in this. And so I welcome Mr. Hofheinz to the team and we’re going to continue to work hard. I want to thank our senators. I know the speaker will thank his house members. Every day we’re all on the ground working with our businesses to help reopen and answer those questions, and we’re going to be bringing you a lot of recommendations to you and look forward to working with you on that.

Dan Patrick: (22:02)
I just want to tell Texans that we had this great opportunity to lead the country, and in essence lead the world with the 10th largest economy, to really open up our economy. But as we go through these phases as the governor, Dr. Hellerstedt said it’s really important we not let our guard down. We still have to focus on the social distance and issues. We have to respect each other as we have, and we have to be safe first. But I feel like today, governor, it is not the end of the beginning, but we are beginning to move to that point, and it will depend on all of us working together. So God bless you and thank you for what you’ve already done so far. That’s great Texas. Thank you.

Governor Greg Abbott: (22:43)
House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

Dennis Bonnen : (22:47)
Thank you governor. And I want to begin by thanking the governor and all of the state employees and the healthcare workers and the doctors who have worked day and night. We’re at a positive place because of their selfless efforts. As Lieutenant governor said, our center’s working hard, our house members are working incredibly hard. And we’re working hard where we are best, and that is in our districts and in our communities where we are closest to the people we represent. And we’re hitting a phase where it is even more important that we show caring and love and compassion for each other than we even already have.

Dennis Bonnen : (23:28)
As we see pieces of our economy open back up, those of us who wish we were able to maybe be back open in our own businesses have to show the restraint and the respect to those businesses who are able to start operating so that we can continue to beat the virus, and the more successful we are in defeating the curve and beating the virus, the more rapidly businesses will be back to normal operations, but we must do it with respect for each other and we must consider each other’s desires for an open Texas-

Dennis Bonnen : (24:03)
… economy. The more we do that with regard to the guidelines, the more success we will have on a more rapid timeline. Thank you Governor for your continuous leadership. He has not taking a breath in his work day and night for Texas. He and this great team, Mr. Huffines and those of you that you will be leading, we look forward to working and supporting all of you in getting Texas back to being the great Texas that it is. Thank you.

Governor Greg Abbott: (24:33)
Thank you very much. We’ll be happy to take a few questions.

Speaker 2: (24:43)
Governor, you mentioned testing. Obviously that remains a concern for a lot of people who look at that number and see how small of a fraction of the overall population it is. Can you tell us what specific strategies and specific benchmarks you may have going forward as you reopen the Texas economy specifically when it comes to testing?

Governor Greg Abbott: (24:59)
Sure. A core component of the ability for Texas to open up our businesses and open up more of our socializing is going to be tied to the increased testing that we will be conducting. I was on a telephone conference with the President, the Vice President and Dr. Birx yesterday where we were talking about these strategies. Through that phone conference, through multiple conversations that I’ve had with the Vice President, through information that I have from our supply chain team, we know the visibility that we have for a dramatic increase in the amount of testing we will be able to do. Not just testing those who may show symptoms of the coronavirus, but also being able to test entire communities so we have better information about what a community setting looks like about what the infection rate may be. Also, testing strategies where we can identify those who test positive and make sure that they’re taken care of in ways that they don’t spread that virus to others.

Governor Greg Abbott: (26:04)
We know that until there’s an immunization or therapeutic drugs that we’ll be able to treat the coronavirus, this can still spread. As a result, people will have to maintain distancing strategies. We will also need to deploy this testing regime across the entire state of Texas to make sure that we continue to contain the coronavirus.

Speaker 2: (26:27)
Is there a specific number of testing, expanded testing capacity that people can look forward to, whether it’s on a daily or weekly basis?

Governor Greg Abbott: (26:35)
In the short term you can continue daily increases with the information that we have about a massive amount of testing capability coming to Texas by late April, early May. It’ll be going up quite a bit.

Speaker 3: (26:53)
Until a firm number can be given, should any businesses be able to open up? What would that look like in terms of when we’ll know the actual numbers, how quickly?

Governor Greg Abbott: (27:03)
Decisions like what you ask about, the ability for businesses to open up will be driven by two things. One is what are our medical team advises. Two is what the data shows. If the data continues to show a flatlining and then a decline of the number of people testing positive in the state of Texas, that is a signal that we can begin the process of opening up some businesses that adhere to the strictest strategies that will reduce the spread of the coronavirus. That would mean limiting the number of people within a certain business. It will mean following sanitation and safe standards. It could be wearing masks. It could be hand sanitizing. It could be making sure that you’re maintaining distance from other employees as well as from customers.

Governor Greg Abbott: (27:55)
Hence, because we’ve been going for more than a month now with strategies showing that businesses have been able to provide food and other supplies and products by delivery to cars, by delivery to homes in ways that contain the spread of the coronavirus, we can at this time safely conclude that such businesses can be expanded throughout the entire retail sector as long as the retail sector is adhering to the same safe practices that we see stores like HEB, Home Depot and others utilizing. With this exception, with the expansion now of retail to-go, it will not allow people to go into these retail stores. It will simply allow them to be able to pick up items at a drive-thru situation or deliver it to their home.

Governor Greg Abbott: (28:54)
With the announcements coming on April the 27th, one thing that our team will be working on collaboratively, but expeditiously is to evaluate what other types of businesses can reopen and what are the best standards and practices for those businesses to follow.

Speaker 2: (29:15)
As you know, there’s a number of legal battles playing out over some of the executive orders that you’ve issued. One of them relates to the ban on most abortions due to the border you put outlawing non-essential surgeries. The new action that you’re taking today on surgeries, does that affect the effective ban on most abortions?

Governor Greg Abbott: (29:35)
Ultimately, obviously that will be a decision for courts to make. Let me tell you about today’s decision. Today’s decision, like all decisions are based upon data and what doctors recommend. The data that was behind the original order was data forecasting that Texas would have strained hospital capacity, strained PPE capacity. Hence, there was a need articulated by doctors that we shut down all procedures except for those that were allowed to make sure that we maintain the hospital beds we needed and maintain the PPE that we needed.

Governor Greg Abbott: (30:15)
It turned out in hindsight that we have a great number of hospital beds that are vacant, that appear that will not be needed to treat COVID-19 patients. Because of the hospital bed vacancy and because of a new supply chain for PPE, we feel that we can begin allowing some more procedures. In my conversations with the doctors before this decision was made, they were very cautious primarily because of the limited PPE still for current hospital workers. Hence, it has opened up a little bit for more surgical procedures and for diagnostic tests, especially for those who may have serious illness in ways that we do not think will compromise PPE supply and in ways it will ensure that there still will remain an adequate number of hospital beds for anybody who may test positive for COVID-19.

Speaker 2: (31:12)
Should those additional surgeries that you’re opening up today, are you allowing them to include an abortion?

Governor Greg Abbott: (31:19)
That is not part of this order. The way that the order is written is in terms of what doctors write about the type of treatment that is provided.

Speaker 3: (31:32)
There’s maybe always a chance that businesses may push the envelope. What advice do you have for employees who may be concerned about going back to work in any form or fashion of whether it’s even to-go or kind of as the economy starts reopening?

Governor Greg Abbott: (31:47)
I’ll cast that advice for both employees and employers. That is it’s understandable that employees may be concerned about going back to work. They may be concerned about contracting COVID- 19. Employees should not be coerced into returning to work. We need to make sure that our employees feel safe and that employers that are beginning, let’s say retail to-go, are employing the very best strategies to make sure that they reduce any possible transmission of COVID-19. Those employers have a responsibility that are set out in that website address that I identified for you to make sure they are practicing safe practices to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

Speaker 2: (32:36)
Your previous order telling, the statewide order telling Texans to stay home except for essential activities, that’s as you know, effective through April 30th. Can you just elaborate on how today’s announcements impact that and what you’re going to be making a decision soon or today whether to extend that previous order?

Governor Greg Abbott: (32:53)
The order to stay at home expires April the 30th. What I announced today were additional exceptions from that stay-at-home policy. I also articulated that in 10 days on the 27th of April, we will be issuing additional executive orders. One of the things that we will consider is the elimination of the stay-at-home policy.

Governor Greg Abbott: (33:17)
The guidelines that were presented to governors yesterday by the President talked about in this next phase if, if the data lines up, is the possibility of going back to the standard that we had in Texas before the stay-at-home standard, which was encouraging people to stay at home, but allowing people to gather in groups of 10 or less. We would be able to move to that standard if the data shows that we are beginning to continue to reduce the number of people testing positive for COVID-19, showing that we are effective in containing the spread of COVID-19.

Speaker 3: (34:00)
What about a possible resurgence? We’ve heard from economists even just the concerns about reopening and kind of a yo-yo effect on the economy. If you’re opening only to see more cases and kind of being right back where we were to begin with and then having to close down again and reopened. Do you think that’s the smartest move?

Governor Greg Abbott: (34:19)
What the President’s advisors have said, what all the medical community says is that when you begin to reopen an economy with a disease that has no immunization for it, there is the possibility of an increase in spread. We know in advance that all of the economies, not just across America, but across the entire world, as they begin to open up there is the possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19. That’s one of the reasons why we will utilize enhanced testing strategies, enhanced containment strategies to make sure that when it does arise we will be able to contain it.

Governor Greg Abbott: (35:02)
What we have shown in what we believe we will be able to continue to show is that we are able to increase economic activity, increase the ability of people to go about with a more normalization of their lives while at the same time containing the spread. When it does arise, be able to provide targeted solutions.

Governor Greg Abbott: (35:22)
Now, there were some other strategies that were mentioned by the President’s team. That is consideration if a spread does arise in a very meaningful way, there may need to be pockets of the economy shutdown. Let me give you an example. If a spread arises, it more likely would arise in a particular community, not statewide. There may be a need to have a stricter standard for that one community as opposed to statewide. But we can be flexible in these strategies and businesses need to understand that we can open so long as these businesses and all Texans make sure they are practicing the safest standards that will prevent …

Governor Greg Abbott: (36:03)
… the spread of COVID-19. If we do that, we will be able to continue to open up our economy.

Speaker 4: (36:13)
Just going back to testing quickly, just to drill down on this, can you explain where this expanded testing capacity is coming from and specifically what kind of testing is going to be part of that expanded testing?

Governor Greg Abbott: (36:23)
Sure. The new testing comes from the private sector. The names of all these entities probably are more easily summoned by Dr. Hellerstedt. If you want to talk about some of these new testing strategies then I will elaborate further.

Dr. Hellerstedt: (36:38)
Thank you, Governor. There are again basically two streams, if you will, for testing. One is in public health and one is through the private sector. We are actually increasing our capacity in the public health. We believe significantly by adding new platforms, if you will, new ways of doing the PCR assay that is, if you will, the gold standard for testing. So we’re adding that.

Dr. Hellerstedt: (37:04)
The other thing that we’re adding and we’re starting to see a more reliable supply of the what are called swab collection kits. So in other words, that’s how you actually obtain the specimen from the patient to do the testing. And those have been in very short supply, but we’re seeing very encouraging signs that more and more of those testing kits will be on the way and more and more testing kits is actually going to enable us to, if you will, maximize the use of the laboratory based testing that we already have. And then there are new technologies that are coming along every day that add to that capacity.

Speaker 4: (37:42)
Yeah, I guess I was trying to get at how much of that share is going to be for example these new rapid tests where you can get a quick answer instead of having to send the swab off to a laboratory.

Governor Greg Abbott: (37:50)
Well, it’s twofold. One is, as Dr Hellerstedt was making clear, and that is there are new collection strategies that will be used, but also there are new testing capacities that will be used. You’ve heard about Roche, for example, and there’s many other private sector providers like that providing these new massive testing capabilities once the collection is done that will lead to greater results. And these are part of the strategies that Dr Birx and the president’s team has been talking to us about that are coming online as we speak.

Speaker 5: (38:25)
I just had one last question about unemployment benefits and the state basically running out of money to be able to pay unemployment benefits. How will that be remedied and just kind of what does that mean for the economy as we’re talking right now?

Governor Greg Abbott: (38:39)
So the question concerns unemployment benefits and understand this and that is the Texas Workforce Commission has been now working seven days a week to make sure that they’re going to be able to process all unemployment benefit claims. My recollection is there’s been well over a million Texans who have been able to be successfully processed for unemployment benefits and something like a half a billion dollars has been paid out. One thing that Congress passed that is so helpful is a massive amount of money that provides more unemployment benefits for a longer period of time. So there should be plenty of money for those who are unemployed. Then on top of that, we know that Congress is considering additional programs that could be coming out as soon as May that will provide even more funding to states as needs arise.

Speaker 5: (39:35)
Will there be any need for tax hikes for businesses?

Governor Greg Abbott: (39:38)
I’m having a hard time hearing you. Could you …

Speaker 5: (39:40)
Sorry. Any need for tax hikes for businesses?

Governor Greg Abbott: (39:43)
Any new tax breaks for businesses?

Speaker 5: (39:45)
Tax hikes for businesses.

Governor Greg Abbott: (39:47)
Tax hikes?

Speaker 4: (39:48)
For unemployment.

Speaker 5: (39:48)
For unemployment benefits to help-

Governor Greg Abbott: (39:50)
but you’re asking about tax hikes?

Speaker 5: (39:52)
Yeah. For paying for …

Governor Greg Abbott: (39:58)
Yeah. Well again, I can’t understand the question. There won’t be tax hikes in Texas. Again, let’s go back. One thing Congress and the President were adamant about achieving is making sure that they are providing an extraordinary, unprecedented amount of unemployment benefits for all workers across the country. So for one, they will continue the flow of unemployment benefits. But remember this, part of their goal, part of the President’s goal and our goal is the best strategy to reduce unemployment benefits is to increase jobs. And part of establishing retail to go, part of what we will announce on April the 27th, part of what we will announce during the course of the month of May will be increasing jobs. It will be getting people off of the unemployment rolls. It will be giving people what they want, and that is the ability to return to work.

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