AUSTIN, Texas - Gov. Greg Abbott took new steps Thursday to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting visitors from areas hit the hardest.
Abbott signed an executive order Thursday saying that anyone entering the state of Texas through an airport in either New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or New Orleans will be subject to a mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days or for the duration of their stay in Texas, whichever is shorter.
"That is really the same thing we would ask of anyone who we know has a high-risk factor of acquiring the disease and therefore spreading it," Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said.
Abbott says travelers from those places will have to provide a quarantine location to the Texas Department of Public Safety in order to enforce the quarantine.
"Department of public safety troopers will conduct visits to those designated quarantine locations to verify compliance with this executive order failure to comply with this order is considered to be a criminal offense," Abbott said.
Those who violate the quarantine can be fined up to $1,000 or sentenced to up to 180 days in jail. Quarantined persons are not allowed to have visitors in or out of the designation quarantine location other than a physician or healthcare provider, and are not allowed to visit other places, says Abbott.
Texas, as of Thursday afternoon, had about 1,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 90 counties. Abbott says about 10 percent of those who have been tested in Texas have tested positive and about 100 of them are hospitalized.
Abbott says this latest order is one way to help protect Texas's hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
"Our job is not to deal with the situation where we are but to be constantly looking forward to the worst case scenario of where we may be," Abbott said. "We don't want to be in a situation like where NY is right now. as a result we work every single day to make sure we are coming up with new strategies to either free up more beds or to add additional bed capacity."
The governor says he knows shutting down businesses and asking people to stay home isn't easy for anyone but that it's important Texans comply with recommendations so that we can return to normal more quickly.
On March 19, Abbott issued a public health disaster, the first in Texas since 1901. The executive orders, which took effect at midnight Friday, March 20 and goes through midnight on Friday, April 3, brings the state in line with CDC guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The public health disaster orders schools to be closed statewide until at least April 3. The disaster also orders a ban on dine-in eating and gathering in groups of more than 10 as the state ramps up efforts to battle the coronavirus. Abbott's order also will shut down gyms and bars. It also bans visits to nursing and retirement homes unless there is a critical need.
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. Every weekday we're live at 1 p.m. with a special show reporting the latest news, prevention tips and treatment information.
You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.