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As the coronavirus spre across the state, The Texas Tribune is covering the most important health, economic and breaking developments that affect Texans, every day. Watch our Texas unemployment tracker , use our explainer on the coronavirus for essential information, and visit our map tracker for the of cases, deaths and tests in Texas.
Greg Abbott took sweeping statewide action against the new coronavirus Thursday as he estimated that the of Texas cases will likely skyrocket to the tens of thousands in two weeks. That would be a dramatic jump from the positive tests the state has reported so far but consistent with officials' warnings over the past several days that the case total will shoot up as the state ramps up testing.
During a news conference Thursday afternoon at the state Capitol, Abbott announced an executive order that will limit social gatherings to 10 people, prohibit eating and drinking at restaurants and bars while still allowing takeout, close gyms, ban people from visiting nursing homes except for critical care, and temporarily close schools. The executive order is effective midnight Friday through midnight April 3, Abbott said. The executive order reflects federal guidance that came out earlier this week. Abbott's announcement is a remarkable shift after he spent days deferring to local officials on virus-related issues such as business and school closures.
Before Thursday, Texas' biggest cities had acted on their own to stop the spread of the virus locally, with places like Houston and Dallas already ordering restaurants and bars closed. But Abbott said Texas' historical approach to disaster response was being tested by a rapidly evolving situation, noting that, for example, there were 39 confirmed cases in Texas when he made his initial disaster declaration six days ago, and now there are more than cases.
Abbott also announced that state health commissioner John Hellerstedt declared a public health disaster earlier Thursday. Abbott said it is his understanding that the last time such a declaration was made in Texas was Abbott ended the action-packed day with the hourlong town hall, which was hosted by Nexstar in Austin and broadcast live on 14 stations across the state as well as online.
In addition to making the estimate of likely tens of thousands of Texas cases in two weeks, Abbott revealed at the town hall that he has been tested for the virus and that the came back negative. Detailing the executive order earlier Thursday, Abbott said that while dining in at restaurants is prohibited, takeout is "highly encouraged.
While schools will be temporarily closed, Abbott said at the news conference that education should continue online or through other methods. He said at the town hall that the temporary closure "applies to any type of educational institution," though there could be exemptions for places on college campuses such as food courts or laboratories. Asked at the town hall if there was any hope of schools reopening before the end of May, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said the state needs to wait and see how the virus spre ahead of the order's April 3 expiration before determining whether a longer closure is necessary.
At the news conference, Abbott emphasized that the executive order is not a shelter-in-place order, saying that Texans can still go to places like the grocery store or bank and that "all critical infrastructure" remains open.
Employers can keep their workplaces open but should only use "essential employees" and allow others to work remotely, Abbott said. The executive order could be extended beyond April 3 depending on the status of the outbreak in Texas, Abbott said. His announcement was not entirely unexpected. Asked Wednesday if he was considering statewide restrictions on bars and restaurants, Abbott said he was and would have an announcement Thursday but first wanted to get input from local officials.
The GOP governor had received increasing scrutiny for not moving sooner to enact statewide rules. Abbott got backup Thursday from Patrick and Bonnen, who said they were "here today to show complete support and unity of the state leadership of Texas. Hours later at the town hall, Abbott addressed a wide range of outbreak-related issues beyond those covered by the executive order. Discussing the economic downturn spurred by the outbreak, Abbott noted the state's savings , known as the rainy day fund, has billions of dollars that lawmakers can act to "tap into at the appropriate time, but the appropriate time will be when we know the full extent of the challenge that we're dealing with.
For lawmakers to dig into the rainy day fund, Abbott would have to call a special session of the Legislature, which is not scheduled to meet again until January. Asked about the possibility of a special session, Abbott said at the town hall that "every option remains on the table," but there will be no need for a special session if every Texan does his or her job in the coming weeks to curtail the spread of the virus.
The May 26 runoff elections are another lingering uncertainty. Abbott has ly aled they could be disrupted by the outbreak, and he said at the town hall that his office could have guidance as soon as Friday about the fate of the elections. The town hall also featured a discussion of Texas' refusal to expand Medicaid under Abbott, and he held firm in light of the outbreak, saying he was not reconsidering his opposition. Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn't cheap.
At a time when newsroom resources and revenue across the country are declining, The Texas Tribune remains committed to sustaining our mission : creating a more engaged and informed Texas with every story we cover, every event we convene and every newsletter we send. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on members to help keep our stories free and our events open to the public. Do you value our journalism? Show us with your support. Coronavirus in Texas As the coronavirus spre across the state, The Texas Tribune is covering the most important health, economic and breaking developments that affect Texans, every day.
More in this series. Reference Read the executive order here. Quality journalism doesn't come free Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn't cheap. Yes, I'll donate today.Executive dating sites texas
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