Though he did not demand it during his June 22 media conference, Gov. Greg Abbott said he wants Texans to wear face masks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
And if certain disease-related numbers double in the next month, Abbott said he might have to tighten some of the measures he has taken to reopen the Texas economy.
“To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas,” the governor said Monday.
He pointed to spikes in the positivity rate, hospitalizations, and daily new cases from the past couple of weeks after those figures had been flattening up until Memorial Day.
“If those spikes continue, additional measures are going to be necessary,” he later said during the briefing.
The best way to make sure that doesn’t happen, he reiterated, is for Texans to return to the safety protocols outlined earlier this year to slow the spread of the virus, including face coverings, hand washing, and social distancing.
“Our goal is to keep businesses open, keep society engaged, and the best way to do that is by wearing a mask,” the governor said.
Burnet County’s COVID-19 case count also has risen — to 101 — and two more deaths related to the disease were recorded June in addition to one from May. Burnet County Judge James Oakley posted the county’s numbers June 22 as reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services on the county’s Facebook page. Oakley commented on a June 19 Facebook post that the second recorded death was a woman in her 80s who had been in a long-term care facility in the Burnet area before being transferred to a hospital outside of the county due to significant health issues.
The woman tested negative for COVID-19 while at the Burnet facility but positive in the hospital before she passed away.
The third death, also a woman in her 80s, was an existing case who had been hospitalized with other health issues, according to the June 22 post.
Of the 101 cases in Burnet County, 47 are considered recovered.
County numbers reflect the statewide trend of rising cases since Memorial Day weekend. From March 23 through May 31, Burnet County had 40 reported positive cases. Since June 1, 61 more positive cases have been reported.
Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham tweeted June 20 that his county had 10 total cases with five recovered and five active. Seven of the cases were reported in June. According to Cunningham, 1,019 county residents were tested as of June 20.
While some have questioned why Abbott has not made it mandatory for Texans to wear face coverings in public, the governor said the size of the state and the varied number of cases from county to county does not dictate a one-size-fits-all approach.
He pointed out that some counties and cities experiencing spikes in cases and hospitalizations have taken stronger measures to slow the spread.
The city of Austin is requiring private businesses to draft plans on how they will reduce the spread of COVID-19, which includes staff and customers wearing face masks. This follows Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff’s statement June 17 that all businesses in Bexar County will be required to enforce face coverings for staff and customers if they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance. Those businesses failing to do so face a fine for each violation.
“COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in the state of Texas, and it must be corralled,” Abbott said at the Monday briefing. “We have several strategies to reduce the spread without shutting Texas back down, but it is up to all of us to do our part to protect ourselves and others.”
He referred to the COVID-19 safety protocols developed by medical experts.
“COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, but neither has our ability to slow the spread of it,” the governor added. “Texans have shown that we don’t have to choose between jobs and health — we can have both. We can protect lives while also restoring livelihoods. Together, we will keep Texans safe, and we will keep our state open for business.”
The governor said closing Texas again will be his last option.