Apr 10, 2020
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript April 10: Hints at Reopening Businesses Next Week
Texas Governor Greg Abbott held a COVID-19 press briefing on April 10. He hinted that an executive order regarding Texas businesses reopening could be coming next week. Read the full transcript here.
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Greg Abbott: (00:00)
It brought to all Christians in the state of Texas, may you have a very blessed Good Friday and a very happy Easter. Let me also start out by expressing my deep gratitude for all the men and women who are involved in any aspect of the health care field or first responder response to those who are contracting COVID-19. We see in any war there are heroes who step up to the very front of the battle lines, who literally put their lives on the line to save the homeland and to save our country and to keep the lives of others safe and secure. In this war that we’re having against COVID-19, the people who are stepping forward and truly putting their lives and their health at risk and on the line, are the men and women on the front line of providing health care, our nurses, our other medical personnel, and we want to express our deepest gratitude for every person in the healthcare area for everything they are doing.
Greg Abbott: (01:06)
The least that we can do to recognize them and to let the public know how much we care so much about it is that tomorrow night we will be lighting up the governor’s mansion in blue, in celebration and in honor of the men and women on the front lines in the healthcare arena. Before I get into what’s going on in the state of Texas per se, I want to follow up a little bit on some things that were said just a few moments ago, during the president’s daily conference about the Coronavirus response. One thing he talked about which is so important, he talked about all that he and his administration have done with regard to helping the energy industry and he mentioned the energy industry in Texas in particular. I’ve had conversations with multiple people in the White House, in the president’s administration about the challenges that we are facing in Texas, in the energy sector, in part because of the Coronavirus, but also in part because of what is going on in the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Greg Abbott: (02:15)
And every step of the way, his administration has been very supportive, wanting to do whatever they possibly could do to make sure that they would be able to invigorate the energy industry, both in Texas as well as the United States of America, not just because of the lost jobs, which are prolific, and not just because of the economic impact, which has been severe, but also because of the importance of Texas and the United States of America maintaining an independent energy sector that America can rely upon as opposed to America having to be relying upon the energy sectors of foreign countries.
Greg Abbott: (02:50)
So what the president and his team have done, is exactly the right thing and I applaud president Trump for doing everything he can for our energy sector. The president also talked about what he and Secretary Perdue were doing to step up in the agriculture sector. This is also so very important to the farmers. We have so many farmers and ranchers in the state of Texas whose livelihood is based upon what they are able to make off of the land. Whose livelihood has been compromised by so many aspects of what’s going on concerning the Coronavirus. We appreciate everything that Secretary Purdue is doing at the leadership of president Trump. Knowing that even though our farmers, our ranchers too are suffering right now, the response by the president will provide some level of relief.
Greg Abbott: (03:44)
Now, the president also talked about and got a lot of questions about something that he has been talking about over the past week or so, and that is economic revitalization. As I’ve mentioned before, I and my team had been involved in multiple levels of contact with the president, with the vice president, with the secretary Mnuchin, with the entire economic team about what next steps will be, across the country and what next steps will be in states as it concerns economic revitalization. Well, we will be learning in more detail in the coming week what the approaches will be by the White House for the United States of America, both with regard to economic revitalization but also doing so in ways that maintain public health and safety.
Greg Abbott: (04:36)
And then also connected to that, next week I will be providing an executive order talking about what will be done in Texas about reopening Texas businesses also in a way that will be safe for that economic revitalization. We will focus on protecting lives while restoring livelihoods. We can and we must do this, so we can do both, expand and restore the livelihoods that Texans want to have by helping them return to work. One thing about Texans is they so much enjoy working and know they want to get back into the workforce. But we have to articulate also the strategies about ways we can do this safely and that’s one thing we will be doing next week.
Greg Abbott: (05:29)
Now onto the numbers. As of earlier today, the total number of Texans who have been tested for COVID-19 is now up to about 116,000 Texans. We will continue this trajectory where we are increasing the amount of testing about a daily compounded rate of 10%. the number of Texans who have tested positive is 11,449. Still maintaining that statistic of a little bit less than 10% of the Texans who are tested, test positive. We also have confirmed hospitalizations of 1,532 Texans who are hospitalized in part because of COVID-19. Unfortunately we now have a total of 221 Texans who’ve lost their lives because of COVID- 19. That’s a number that if you were to compare it to other states, it would look like a relatively small number, but if you compare it to the hearts and souls of the households who’ve lost a member, it’s a number that is far too large.
Greg Abbott: (06:48)
The key thing that we focus on every day here is strategies to make sure we can minimize the loss of life and because of our healthcare professionals and the terrific job they’ve been doing, they have done an excellent job of minimizing the loss of life. I said we know every life lost is one too many. Now there is another statistic that we have begun to track and that we will be sharing with you on a daily basis and that is the number of people who have been categorized as recovered. What that means is these are Texans who have tested positive for COVID-19 and they’ve gone through the process of recovering from that infection. And before they can be categorized as recovered, they have to go through at least a 14 day period of being free from COVID-19. That’s why you will see that there’s a lag time period in providing you the recovery rates because of the time period after they test positive for COVID-19.
Greg Abbott: (07:57)
I’m proud to say that in Texas we have 1,366 Texans who have recovered from COVID-19. But get this, of all these other states in the United States that have far more infectious rate and far more people who have tested positive for COVID-19, Texas ranks second most in the United States of America for the most people who have recovered from COVID-19. We continue to see hospital bed capacity to be very strong. We, as of today still have more than 20,000 actually 20,488 beds that are available state-wide and 2,248 ICU beds that are available. We have 7,834 ventilators that are available.
Greg Abbott: (08:51)
And I’ve got to tell you, this past week has been a remarkable week for what has been done in expanding and delivering the amount of PPE, the personal protection equipment that our first responders and our medical care professionals so desperately need. And in just the past eight days, we’ve shipped out 3,710,000 masks, 116,700 face shields, 4,480,000 gloves and 78,000 gowns and coveralls. Now, one thing that we want to do today is to show you a little bit more graphically about what the spread of the Coronavirus looks like, both statewide but also in the largest metropolitan areas. So this time I’m going to turn around and face this screen and describe to you a little bit of what we’re seeing.
Greg Abbott: (09:51)
So in this first screen, this is the statewide information. I’m going to show you four very important lines. The top line is a blue line and that is the total number of cases in the state of Texas. This done in a way that is added to every single day. My point is this and that is, as you see that blue line, the way that it’s measured is it’s never going to go down because you’re adding to it every single day. So when we talk about bending the curve, we’ll talk about that momentarily.
Greg Abbott: (10:33)
Just know that that top line, because it will continue to aggregate more and more cases every day, it will never turn. But the key thing to look at on that blue line is what is the degree of the angle? Is it more facing up or is it more laying down? The degree of that angle shows you the extent to which we are slowing the spread. As you can see early on in the latter part of March, the angle was going almost vertically straight up. As you can see now the angle is laying down more. That means that we are beginning to slow the growth of the Coronavirus. We’ve not yet reached the peak and began on the decline yet.
Greg Abbott: (11:18)
The red line that you see in the middle, that red line shows the total number of new positive cases on a daily basis. Obviously, it’s jagged and obviously you can see that as we began testing in the latter part of March, there was a dramatic jump. And then it has begun to level off a little bit, but you can still see there is a slight upward slope in the red line showing that we still have an increase in the number of people who are being tested positive and we have not yet begun to go on the down-slope side of that curve. On this graph, it will not show up on the local graphs so I’m going to go over later.
Greg Abbott: (12:01)
On this graph, you’ll see a green, you might want to call it teal color line. It’s right above that red line. It may be hard to see, but it may be the most important line on here as far as I’m concerned. That green color line, it begins about April the first and is the number of hospitalizations. If you look at that green line, you will see several times when it goes up in number. You will also see what I think is most important and that is on the right hand side of that green line, you’ll see that it is relatively flat. So for several days now, in the entire state of Texas, the total number of Texans hospitalized has remained relatively flat despite the fact that we have more people testing positive every single day. That means that the people who are testing positive are less likely to need to go into a hospital and that means that their cases are more likely to be resolved without any type of adverse effects.
Greg Abbott: (12:56)
The bottom line is in orange, that’s the total number of fatalities that have been suffered. Now as you see, that line continues to go up also and is not showing any sense of leveling off right now. Understand this, and that is the fatality numbers always lag a week or two behind the total numbers that come in for those who test positive and so we will see a peaking and then a downsloping of the total number of people testing positive before we will see a peaking in a downturn in the total of the people who lose their lives because of COVID-19 if our graphs are consistent with most of the other graphs that we see.
Greg Abbott: (13:41)
Next slide. So what we wanted to do for you is to provide you information from around the state of Texas, from all of the large counties, sharing everything that I just talked about except for the hospitalization rate. And these are all just in alphabetic order. So you see Bexar County and understand, look on the blue line. Again, the blue line are the total number of new positive cases of COVID-19 on the list. On the left side going up all the way to the latter part of March, you see a sharp incline.
Greg Abbott: (14:18)
Now you’re beginning to see the slope of that line begin to level off a little bit. That shows that the growth rate is far smaller than it was in the past. And you see the results of that in the red line. And so the most recent number, we have for people testing positive on a daily basis is 51, they’re shown on the right hand side on the red line. That clearly is below the high water mark for those testing positive in San Antonio, which was 88. Hopefully that 88, that looked like it occurred in the early days of April will be the high watermark for Bexar County. If that is true and if the red line continues to stay below 88 and maybe it doesn’t go much above where it is right now, 51-
Greg Abbott: (15:03)
… Below 88, and maybe it doesn’t go much above where it is right now, 51, that means that Bexar County truly will be passed the peak, on a downward trend with regard to the number of people testing positive. I hasten to say it’s too early to declare that right now. It is good, however, that we’ve had one, two, three, four, five days now of testing far below the 88, which seemed to be the peak in the Bexar County area. You see also a period of time without any deaths. Then the death rate increase a little bit, and that again will continue to increase a little bit. Hopefully, it will begin to slope down real soon. Next slide.
Greg Abbott: (15:45)
This is Collin County. If you go back one that come back. Look on the second half of the blue curve in Bexar County. Now let’s go forward to Collin County. In Collin County, you see the slope of the blue line is actually, where it is right now, is a little bit steeper than it was in Bexar County. That would mean that the growth of the number of cases in Collin County has not slowed as much as it has in Bexar County. It has slowed because the slope of the blue line is not as steep as it was early on, but it’s not slowed as much as it has in Bexar County. You can kind of see that.
Greg Abbott: (16:27)
The good news is if you look at all the high marks in Collin County going back almost to March the 26th to April the 10th, so in March 26th, there were 35 people tested positive. As of April the 10th, there were 35 people that tested positive that day. There are a bunch of numbers in between with only one at a higher rate, two at a higher rate. You’ve got 43 and 37. Collin County has been fairly consistent, in the high-level marks, people testing positive, they may be getting close to being able to bend their curve. Next slide.
Greg Abbott: (17:05)
Now, this is a good chart to look at because this is Dallas County. You can see once again, like so many of the other counties, there’s a period when there was a sharp increase. If you look at the degree of the angle of the blue line, you’ll see that Dallas County really is leveling off more than the other counties that we’ve talked about before. You can kind of again see that in the numbers. The most recent number in Dallas County of the people testing positive to the far right in the red line is 63, which is far below the early 134, and then the multiple days around 100 to 190, 94, 97, and then there was a spike up to 106. But there’s a couple of good days where they had been at 43 and 63. Again, it’s too early to say that Dallas has peaked. It is fair to say that things are looking like they are beginning to level off a little bit. Next slide. Denton County also same thing, an extremely steep curve almost through the end of March. Then clearly if you look at the slope of that curve, it’s changed dramatically. I talked to (silence) in County. We talked about it, if you can recall, there was this state-supported living center in Denton County, where there was a very large number of people who had to be tested and that led to a steep rise early on. Fortunately, they were able to very swiftly contain that situation. It did not turn into the dire situation that we were concerned it could turn into. We appreciate the local-level swift response in handling this in a very effective way; and because of the way that Denton County has responded, that has led to a decrease in the angle of the slope. Hopefully, they’re getting close to leveling off.
Greg Abbott: (18:58)
Again, if you look at these numbers after the high watermark of 54 testing positive one day, they’ve been consistently between 26 and 32 almost every single day. Again, the 32 is higher than it was a couple of days ago at 15 and 16, so we can’t say for sure that they have bent the slope going down, but it should be coming here in about a week or so hopefully. Next slide.
Greg Abbott: (19:27)
El Paso shows you a completely different type of blue line. The other lines we’ve been looking at shows the angle of the line flattening off a little bit. In El Paso, you see the angle of the line continuing up. I talked to Dee Margo, the mayor of El Paso, to visit with him about what was going on, as well as offering any type of support that they would need from the state of Texas.
Greg Abbott: (19:54)
Understand a couple of things, the total number, which I don’t have. If I recall it’s around 200, a little bit over 200? Do you recall off the top of your head? Put it this way, the total number of people in El Paso County is far lower than the total number of people in these other counties we’ve been talking about. As a result, that’s one thing that enhances the slope a little bit. But also in talking to the mayor, they feel like they haven’t [inaudible 00:20:38] emphasizing [inaudible 00:20:38] but especially at a time when [inaudible 00:20:43] El Paso would want to go and be [inaudible 00:05:46], just know that clearly looking at the trend line [inaudible 00:20:52] gather in large numb- [inaudible 00:20:55] you really are compromising the health and safety and maybe the li- [inaudible 00:20:59] members [inaudible 00:21:01] most recent number, 39, of the most re- [inaudible 00:21:30] so that shows clearly El [inaudible 00:21:34] right now. But, again, we will be doing everything we [inaudible 00:21:38].
Greg Abbott: (21:53)
… is the county that has the most people who have tested positive and their numbers continue to go up. Some good news is this is not quite at the same angle as Dallas County, but it’s clear to see that all the way through the latter part of March there was a pretty steep angle and then the angle begins to level off a little bit. You, you can see with the red line that it goes up and down, but the trend line still is an upward trend line, so Harris County is not quite at the same level as Dallas County in Bexar County and some other counties with regard to let’s say a flattening of the number of new cases. It is good that the two most recent days are far below the 414 that was two days ago, but we still have a lot more information to gather before we can start making any positive predictions about Harris County.
Greg Abbott: (22:49)
What I can’t tell you is this, and that is over the past several days I have visited both with the vice president multiple times as well as Lena Hidalgo and her team, Lena Hidalgo, is the county judge in Harris County. I visited with her and her team on multiple occasions to talk about several things. One is to talk about the facility that’s being set up at NRG Arena to make sure that they will have overflow capacity if needed, if they have an overflow of our number of COVID-19 patients. They set up this facility and working alongside with the US Army Corps of Engineers as well as FEMA, as well as the National Guard here in Texas. They’re prepared medically to be able to deal with the challenges.
Greg Abbott: (23:36)
Also, I worked to make sure that Harris County would be receiving more testing capabilities as well as some other strategies to make sure that we are assisting them in reducing the growth that we’re seeing in Harris County. Next slide.
Greg Abbott: (23:54)
Lubbock, a couple of things about it. One is if you look at the angle of the top line, the blue line, which is the total number of people added on top of each other every single day who are testing positive, that angle is a steeper angle than some of these other counties. That said, if you look at the red line since the latter part of March, the top number in the red line has stayed fairly consistent. You have 26, 23, 21, 26, 23. The good news is they haven’t had any meaningful spikes above what their consistent top line number is, so that means there is some level of containment. Obviously, we want to see those numbers on the red line go down and that will show that Lubbock has gained control of the situation and should be moving toward a point of containment. Next slide.
Greg Abbott: (24:56)
Tarrant County is in a way kind of the same as Lubbock County, although the numbers are larger. You see early on a steep slope and then an angle that’s far better than the early steep slope. But the angle of the blue line is not adequately bending to show that they are where we want them to be. That said, kind of like with Lubbock, the top line numbers, the number of people testing positive, is remaining contained compared to the high point of 98 that looks like it took place on March 31st. Since then, you have high marks of 58, 65, and 71. If over the [inaudible 00:25:37] week, it shows that it doesn’t go above 71 again and they start going down, that will show that Tarrant County will have their situation under control. Next slide.
Greg Abbott: (25:50)
Travis County shows the type of line that you want to see. Again, early on a kind of a steep angle but look from, it looks like about March the 24th, when they had 57 people on the red line. 57 people tested positive that day. From that day on look at the slope of the blue line. The slope begins to be at a lower degree angle, which means things are leveling off. You kind of see that with regard to the red line numbers. They did come down in the latter days of March and then spike back up to 61 and 79 in the early days of April. But since then their high water mark is 52 and now 43. Again, it’s way too early to make any great pronouncements that Travis County is on the down slope, but since about April the 2nd, it looks like they’re numbers of people testing positive is definitely going in the right direction. Next slide. Webb County looks kind of like El Paso in that the angle of the blue line continues to go upward at a degree that shows more concern about Webb County. Again, the raw number of people testing positive is not as high as it is in the larger counties, but it’s still too high. You can see the red line continue an upward trend. Although the last, pretty much almost the month of [inaudible 00:27:33] on the number of people testing positive to be no more than around 20. It will show that they will begin to gain control of it and that blue line will begin to flatten off at a slower degree. But it is an area that we will be watching carefully. Again, we’ll be doing whatever we can to assist them in Webb County. Next slide.
Greg Abbott: (28:08)
This is important right here. This is exactly what Dr. Zerwas was talking about in our last conference when he talked about doubling time. In fact, Doctor, you’ll do a better job of describing this than myself. Why don’t [inaudible 00:13:28].
Dr. Zerwas: (28:30)
… we’re looking at here is the period of time that it takes to actually double the number of identified cases. If you look way back at something like Italy early on, that doubling time was one to one-and-a-half days, incredibly fast rate of increase in new cases. It’s pretty common in the epidemiological circles to look at doubling time. Our time started out when we first started really addressing this around three days. We started out certainly in a better place than New York or Italy started out. But we’ve continued, through the measures that the governor has put in place, seen that that time increase significantly over the past month.
Dr. Zerwas: (29:08)
To go to this level over a period of a couple, three weeks time is really evident that the efforts towards distancing ourselves, staying out of high-density congregated areas and so forth, good hygiene, all the things that the governor, Dr. Hellerstedt like to talk about, they really do have a profound impact. If there’s something that shows that really better than anything, I think it’s in fact the doubling time that you see here.
Greg Abbott: (29:35)
Thank you. One thing that I know people want, they want to see signs of hope, signs of success. This is a mathematical sign of success. That line going down is so important. That line going down means that we’re slowing the pace at which COVID-19 is growing in the state of Texas. We want to see that line continue to go down in the coming weeks, which will be a further signal that we have bent the curve. Next-
Greg Abbott: (30:03)
Which will be a further signal now that we have bent the curve. Next slide. That’s it. Very good.
Greg Abbott: (30:11)
Picking back up with some things that I talked about and expanding on a tiny bit. As I mentioned, I spoke Vice President Pence for the second time this past week. We talked… I mentioned about Harris County, but more broadly we talked about the state of Texas and that main concerned about the state of Texas. They want to make sure that they in the white house and nationally, they’re doing everything they can to assist Texas in this ongoing fight against the coronavirus and so we talked about the strategic use of more federal resources where needed to make sure that we will have the capability of responding, whether it be with regard to testing or other types of strategies.
Greg Abbott: (30:48)
I want the vice president to know how much Texas appreciates what he and the president are doing to help the state of Texas. Additionally, however, I want to point out that even though the federal government is providing more resources for things like testing, a lot of the testing, equipment, supplies, et cetera, really are being provided by the private sector. When the early response to the coronavirus began, almost all of the testing capability was coming from the federal government.
Greg Abbott: (31:21)
In the aftermath of the early response, we saw a very prolific increase of the capabilities of the private sector to both produce the testing equipment and to disseminate the testing, whereas initially it was public health authorities. Now public health authorities continue to provide testing. FEMA continues to provide testing, but most of the testing that’s taking place is done by the private sector, whether it be private healthcare providers, these drive through facilities that you see seemingly to increase across the state of Texas on a daily basis and it will be these private providers that will help Texas continue our increasing in testing across… I mentioned with regard to Harris County, but now I want to expand what is going on with regard to the collaborative efforts of the Texas National Guard working under the leadership of General Tracy Norris as well as working in collaboration with the US Army Corps of Engineers. They continue to identify and set up additional healthcare facilities and testing sites across Texas.
Greg Abbott: (32:28)
One location they’re working with right now is the area of Beaumont and early today I got off the phone with the county judge in Jefferson County and we talked about what was going on in the area and they were a little concerned about hospital capacity and they wanted to make sure that they would have available to them all healthcare capabilities in the event that they continue to have more and more people test positive and so we talked about ensuring that Texas would collaborate with Jefferson County and the multi-county region in that area of Texas to make sure they have everything they need including… I emphasize to him that Texas has plenty of ventilators. If they need any ventilators whatsoever, know that their every need will be quickly met.
Greg Abbott: (33:16)
With regard to the National Guard as we speak today, there are 1058 national guard who had been deployed across the state of Texas to help in the response to COVID-19. To address a very meaningful concern that we have…. As I mentioned earlier, we have these doctors, these nurses, these healthcare providers. We have law enforcement officers. We have other first responders that they have to be on the front lines every single day to help us respond to the coronavirus. An issue they have to deal with as they go to the front lines, for those who have children, what happens to their child during the course of the day? What happens with their childcare needs?
Greg Abbott: (34:03)
To better address that and to assist all of our essential workers, today we have launched an online frontline childcare portal. This is a project of the Texas Frontline Childcare Task Force led by [Elaine 00:34:21] Mendoza. Elaine Mendoza is the chair of the Board of Regents for Texas A&M University and she is working with the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas [inaudible 00:04:33], Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. [inaudible 00:35:00] services that we need to operate state and help people remain safe.
Greg Abbott: (35:07)
Some numbers. Overnight about 1000 childcare spots were filled. Currently there remain 88,450 slots that are open, 13,027 infant spots, 22,281 toddler spots, 28,184 pre-K spots and 24,954 school age. You’re able to… Desperately need on the front line.
Greg Abbott: (36:03)
Now there’s an agency in the state of Texas that is particularly [inaudible 00:36:11] and that… Smashing record number of people who filed for unemployment benefits so much so that in order to respond to it, the Texas workforce commission has added hundreds upon hundreds of additional employees and now have staff members from both the Texas House of Representatives as well as the Texas Senate aiding in their spots and they’re now working seven days a week.
Greg Abbott: (36:48)
Already 363,335 claims paid… Will be larger in amount and for a longer period of time because of the extra money provided by Congress and the president.
Greg Abbott: (37:19)
Now I continue to go about the process of suspending certain laws where needed to help Texas respond and deal with the challenges of the coronavirus. One that I did since we last met was an executive order to allow for the appearance before a notary public using video conference calls. This is very helpful for doing things like executing wills and trusts and other legal documents in ways that prevent people from gathering when you’re supposed to have these witnesses witness it in person. Now you can do it by witnessing by way of video conferencing. That is… Family and your friends. Though the cost has been high for families and businesses and each life lost cuts very deeply. We’ve learned in past disasters that from suffering comes perseverance. From perseverance comes character. From character comes hope and as we head into Easter weekend, I’m filled with hope knowing the character that Texans have shown and responding to the coronavirus in Texas. Thank you. Next to Dr [inaudible 00:09:44].
Speaker 2: (39:45)
Thank you Governor Abbott. I share that hope and we should always though be able to explain the reasons for our hope and the governor has laid that out for you. This is very powerful information that he’s provided you. This is objective information. He’s showing you that there are places in this state where some of the rate at which it’s spreading is beginning to show slowed down. They’re showing other areas of the state where we still have work to do, this fight against COVID-19 has been compared to a war and just like a war, you don’t stop fighting until you know pieces at hand and right now we need to continue to do the things that we have been doing that are leading to these early signs of success, that are leading us into that hope and we really should be very optimistic about it because the sacrifices that we’ve made are working. The social distancing is working. We’re decreasing the rate at which the disease is growing in our state.
Speaker 2: (40:42)
But that doesn’t mean it’s over. That doesn’t mean that there still isn’t momentum behind it and we can’t give up. We need to keep doing what we’re doing until we’re absolutely certain that we have COVID-19 under control and every part of our state. So thank you governor.
Greg Abbott: (40:57)
Thank you Doctor. Dr. [inaudible 00:40:58].
Speaker 3: (40:59)
Thank you, Governor and I would also share that message of hope and optimism. I’d like to just speak and shout out to all the healthcare industry and the work that they’re doing to make beds available, to make intensive care units available, ventilators available and to make their expertise available. They’re at the front lines seeing patients as they come in. We have seen a steady rise, but not a rise that’s disconcerting to us, but just know that your healthcare industry has… Basically it’s all focused on COVID-19 now. They’ve stopped their elective surgery per the directive of the governor, which is the appropriate thing to do and there is capacity there to manage if we see a surge and in fact if it even goes beyond what they have, you’ll see when you talk to some of the various healthcare sectors out there, they’ve planned for that. They plan for when they hit a certain capacity. They know they’re going to need to another move to another area.
Speaker 3: (41:56)
I’m very pleased with that. I’m very proud of what they’ve done and I know Governor that should we see a bigger surge at some point in the future by virtue of your leadership, they are ready and prepared to handle that.
Greg Abbott: (42:08)
Thank you, Dr. Chief [inaudible 00:00:42:09].
Speaker 4: (42:10)
Thank you Governor. I want to echo the thoughts and the thanks of the Texas military department, General Norris and her team, the work that they’re doing to increase our productivity. The Texas A&M Force Service that are helping with logistics to get all the supplies shipped out. A lot of our first responders will not be with their families this Easter weekend and my heart is out to them and my gratitude to them. We’re continuing to work with FEMA and the federal partners at your direction to increase the testing capabilities. We hope that in the Houston Harris County, that number will more than double within the next few days. Very good conversations with our friend Tony Robinson, the regional administrator, and all of the work that him and his team are doing, but I need to thank the [inaudible 00:42:47] team as well that are on the front lines out there every day, so we’ll get through this.
Greg Abbott: (42:50)
Thank you for that. Thank you for your leadership and we’ll take some questions.
Speaker 5: (42:54)
Speaker 6: (43:01)
Can you tell us how important testing is going to be towards reopening the economy? Are we going to have to have most Texans able to test whether or not they have COVID-19 before they’re able to go back to work?
Greg Abbott: (43:16)
We will be talking more about that next week when I make my announcement about what opening up looks like. That said, I will tell you that testing will be a component of it and we will operate very strategically. We want to open up, but we want to open up safely knowing that if we do it too fast, without the appropriate strategies, it will just lead to a potential closure because of another outbreak of COVID-19, but more about that next week.
Speaker 7: (43:49)
We’ve heard from local officials that tests and PPE are really the things they really need more of and just with limited testing that it’s likely the number of positive cases is higher than what’s been able to be confirmed through testing so far. You’d announced that Abbott Labs would be sending thousands of tests at Texas hospitals, but we’ve heard from local officials they can’t get clarity on where those tests are being sent and they don’t really have info on that. So is there any more details you could provide on where tests, like the ones for Abbott Labs or private industry, is being sent and just what criteria is being used to prioritize where those get sent?
Greg Abbott: (44:20)
Sure. First with regard to the Abbott Labs, they are going out. I’ve spoken to the CEO of Abbott Labs about that, and they are deploying those in part at instructions by federal health and human services and so it’s not as if anybody, everybody’s going to have access to it right now. The initial deployment, again, is based largely upon federal guidance, but as you may have seen, the Abbott Labs capability is increasing dramatically to I think, is it 50,000 per day? That will be coming soon and so their deployment will continue to…
Greg Abbott: (45:03)
And they will be coming soon, and so their deployment will continue to increase. The future deployment of that will dovetail into what was previously asked about what testing will look like going forward. Second, with regard to the total amount of testing, understand a couple of things with regard to total amount of testing, and that is the primary goal of testing is to identify if someone who seems to have symptoms of an illness that could be consistent with COVID-19, that they get tested so they get identified, so they get isolated so they don’t contaminate anybody else. If you are someone who has no symptoms like, “I’m curious if I may have COVID-19.
Greg Abbott: (45:42)
Let me go check it out,” you don’t fit the criteria in Texas right now to be tested, and there’s a very scientific medical reason for that, and that is if you have no symptoms whatsoever and you get tested, that test is worthless because you could contract COVID-19 later on that night or the next day and you have to be tested again once you show some signs or symptoms. Similarly, if you have symptoms of an illness, let’s say you have a fever, is that fever because of a respiratory infectious disease or the fever really because of some other type of infection that you have in your body? By talking [inaudible 00:46:20] doctor, your doctor will be able to advise you about that, and speaking of which, one thing that Dr. Hellerstedt made clear but I saw the Surgeon General for the United States of America emphasizing this point last night.
Greg Abbott: (46:33)
He said that if you have concerns that you may have the coronavirus or COVID-19, do not go to the hospital, do not go to your doctor’s office. Instead, call your doctor. They don’t want anybody who may have COVID-19 infecting what could be a waiting room for either a doctor or other healthcare provider. Call your doctor, your doctor will be able to talk to you about what your symptoms are, and see whether or not you might test positive for COVID-19, and then direct you to go to a location where you can be tested for COVID-19. All that said, let me emphasize this point, some other mathematical points, is the mathematical points of what I’ve what I talked about every day.
Greg Abbott: (47:16)
So as of today, we have a total number of people of 1,532 people who are hospitalized for COVID-19. So the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19, those people are tested, and because we see a steady rate of hospitalizations and a lower rate in Texas than what we see in some other states, percentage wise, we know for a fact what COVID-19 looks like in the State of Texas. Then there’s another numerical fact, and that is the number of deaths connected to COVID-19. Because we are seeing a low number of deaths and a low number of hospitalizations in comparison to other states and in comparison to the positive test rates of other states, it means a couple of things.
Greg Abbott: (48:04)
One, the prevalence of COVID-19 is less in Texas than it is in other states, one more populace, which is California, but also others that are less populous like New York and Illinois and Florida and Pennsylvania and some other states like that. So people should take that as a good sign, that COVID-19, while dangerous, while still growing in the State of Texas is not as severe as it is in some other states. Our goal, if I could [inaudible 00:48:39] go ahead. Our goal, just to be clear, is to make sure not only do we keep it that way, but that we make it better. But yeah. Please. Let me have Dr. Hellerstedt explain to you from a doctor’s perspective.
Dr. Hellerstedt: (48:48)
Yeah, thank you, Governor. If I might add, think of it this way, testing definitely has a role. There’s no doubt that it’s important, there’s no doubt that people want it. But just imagine that if I could test, that we could test every single person in Texas this afternoon and determine whether or not they had COVID-19, by itself, if we didn’t do the things we’re asked to do in terms of prevention, the disease would continue to progress. So testing has a role. There’s absolutely no doubt about it, and it has some very specific uses that are very critical.
Dr. Hellerstedt: (49:20)
But at the same time, the important message is about prevention, it’s about the social distancing, the hygiene and the sanitation of common areas, the things that we touch in common with each other. Those things are working. You saw the objective evidence of how this is working mathematically, if you will, and I think that’s very powerful. We should be hopeful about it. We should understand the role of testing, that it has its context but the prevention is really the task at hand.
Speaker 8: (49:58)
Hi, governor. I wanted to ask you a little bit more about the El Paso [inaudible 00:50:02] Obviously, El Paso [inaudible 00:50:05] counties are [inaudible 00:50:09] flattening by the same degree. In your conversation with the mayor, you mentioned a couple things, but did you get any other indications for why El Paso may be an outlier [inaudible 00:50:19]
Greg Abbott: (50:23)
Nothing in particular other than the raw number of the people in El Paso is not as high as elsewhere, and is in a way newer to El Paso. So it may be like these other counties, where in the earlier stages of it, it’ll be in a higher trend and hopefully as it gets into the next couple of weeks, you will see that trend begin to bend like you did in the other counties.
Speaker 9: (50:54)
Oh yes, governor. A quick question for you. So Texas’s [inaudible 00:50:57] law is 50 out of 50 for uninsured women. For example, we’ve turned down Medicaid expansion. You mentioned just now your words that the TWC has seen a massive increase in the amount of people applying for unemployment. So what are you going to do for those people who have or had health insurance through their company that no longer have health insurance through their company? What is Texas going to do to protect those people who used to be able to have access to the insurance but now no longer can get it?
Greg Abbott: (51:25)
Two things. One is, as it concerns COVID-19 remember this, everybody, regardless of their health insurance status, will have access to COVID-19 test, COVID-19 treatment, whether it be hospitalization or whatever’s needed. All of that is being 100% provided by the federal government directly to the provider. Second, the goal that we have tied to the response to coronavirus is to get those people who used to have insurance through an employer back in the workforce and have insurance by their employer. That said, there have been some announcements. I didn’t bring them all with me. I wish I had. Pfizer, for example, has made clear that for those who did have insurance and that were covered by an employer who lost their job [inaudible 00:52:13] absolutely no [inaudible 00:52:15] and there are multiple examples like that. [inaudible 00:52:19] the way that [inaudible 00:52:28] especially as it concerns any type of need they have concerning COVID-19.
Speaker 10: (52:37)
Yeah. So a Lieutenant Governor Patrick said that he is hoping to reopen some businesses in the Texas economy by the first week of May. Do you agree with this timeline, and what would it take to be able to achieve that?
Greg Abbott: (52:48)
Sure. So the way that this all works is we all have a desire to get things going as quickly as possible, but we also have a desire to make sure that it’s done in ways that are safe, understanding if everyone were to rush the doors and go back into the job market overnight, we would see an outbreak of COVID-19 again. That’s exactly why I’m issuing the executive order next week establishing what the statewide standards will be in the coming days about what the approach is, and these are standards, again, that we’ve been working in conjunction with the White House on to make sure that we’re following the suggestions and ideas of the CDC as well as Dr. Fauci, Dr. Burks, as well as the president himself and the vice president himself, as well as the economic advisors, Mnuchin and others, and then also in consultation with Dr. Hellerstedt.
Greg Abbott: (53:45)
Understand that we all want Texas to go back to work as quickly as possible, and we will do so. Texas has always led economically. We will lead economically in response to the aftermath of COVID-19, but we will understand that we will do so in ways that protect lives and promote the livelihoods of our fellow Texans.
Speaker 11: (54:19)
Governor, could you just explain really quickly why there are some, or I guess, a chunk of golf courses that have been able to stay operational while other sports recreational complexes were closed?
Greg Abbott: (54:30)
Sure, happy to. Let me tell you what the standard is, and it’s a uniform standard and that is, first, the standard is based upon what was contained in the executive order about essential services. In the executive order, we exempted essential services from the limitation on being able to do business. Golf courses was not included in that list of essential services. However, we did say that people should feel free to go take a walk in the park to advance their own personal health. So here’s the way that’s applied, and that is golf courses and the staff that work at golf courses, the [inaudible 00:55:16] operation of it has to be closed for a couple of reasons.
Greg Abbott: (55:19)
One, so that you don’t have people within the clubhouse, say, who could be transmitting the coronavirus, but also it wouldn’t provide a gathering place where people could contract the coronavirus. However, people are afraid to walk along or even with a golf club and a golf ball, go along a golf course. Public golf course, anybody can. A private golf course, the club house is supposed to be closed. [inaudible 00:55:49] members who are [inaudible 00:55:50] to be on that premises can walk along the golf course even with a golf club and a golf ball as long as they are all maintaining safe distancing practices and following the CDC standards to make sure they’re not transmitting the coronavirus.
Speaker 12: (56:03)
Speaker 13: (56:12)
Thanks, governor. You have talked previously about some of the actions that you’ve taken to limit contact in nursing home facilities, and we’ve asked you previously about some specific cases. But from HHSC, new numbers in the last 24 hours showing nearly 200 nursing and assisted living facilities statewide have at least one COVID-19 case. So far the agency has not released specific numbers and specific locations of those cases. When can you say that Texans will start seeing more transparency surrounding some of those specific concerns?
Greg Abbott: (56:50)
Let me as Dr. Hellerstedt … First, we don’t have anybody here from HHSC and I’m not sure what, if anything, you all may know about that, but I’ll try to come back to it.
Dr. Hellerstedt: (56:58)
[inaudible 00:56:58] what I can say about it is that the Department of State Health Services and HHSC … HHSC regulates the nursing homes and also runs the state supported living centers, both areas where we have a concentration of people at high risk, and we’ve been working with them together to do a couple of things. So when an outbreak is identified, we can provide some expertise to help bolster the infection control practices in that area, and then for those many areas of the state where and many facilities in the state that do not have COVID-19, we’re going back and reinforcing good infection control practices. Among other things, the order has been in place for a period of time now about not having visitation in those types of facilities. We know that’s a real hardship. It’s a hardship for families, it’s a hardship for the people that are there, but I would just want to say that there’s the most at risk population and a majority, the vast majority, of those institutions, those [inaudible 00:58:03] 19. I prefer to look at it in a positive way. In that sense.