Abbott gives no timeline for reopening bars; addresses schools, unemployment benefits and college football

Gov. Greg Abbott met with doctors and local leaders in the Beaumont area Tuesday. Afterward, he spoke about a variety of topics including reopening schools, reopening bars, unemployment benefits and the upcoming football season.

The governor said the numbers of those testing positive for COVID-19 is trending the right directions but hospital capacity is still too high.

He applauded Beaumont-area doctors and touted some of the treatments being used in the region to help patients successfully recover from the virus – the drug Remdesivir, steroid treatments and plasma donations from people who have already recovered.

“Everybody who has tested positive for COVID-19 who has recovered, they have blood plasma that can help others overcome the challenge of COVID-19,” he said. “We urge you to provide your blood through a local agency.”


Still, he said the best way to reduce hospital capacity across the state is to reduce the number of people testing positive for COVID-19.

“The most important thing I could convey today is that even though the numbers of COVID-19 have improved, COVID-19 is not left Jefferson County. It’s not left Orange County. It’s not left the state of Texas. COVID-19 still spreads across this region and across the country just as fast as it did in July when we hit high numbers of deaths and high numbers of hospitalizations,” he said. “The only way to reduce the spread is by everyone continuing to do the best practices of wearing a mask, keeping your distance from others, staying at home if at all possible, using frequent hand sanitizer to make sure you are reducing the spread of COVID-19.”

The governor addressed schools reopening. He said the state is doing everything possible to make sure schools have the funding and personal protective equipment they need. But he acknowledged it is possible some schools will continue with virtual-only learning well into October.

“Whatever is the best strategy determined by the school district is exactly the pathway that school district should follow,” he said.

When asked about a timeline for reopening bars, breweries and wineries, Abbott did not specifically give one. Instead, he encouraged Texans to work collaboratively to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“It was after they were opened that we saw an increase in the spread of COVID-19 that led to the necessity of closing them,” he said. “If we were able to get to a positivity rate of well below 10% and maintain that positivity rate and we were able to get to a situation where we were back in the May timeframe of low hospitalizations because of COVID-19 and sustain those rates for a prolonged period of time and if all operators of bars and restaurants and establishments were to follow the safety protocols that were put into place when from the very beginning that required patrons of bars to not stand up, not walk around, not converse without masks, not go to the bar itself but to remain seated at a table in small gatherings and be in a situation where they were avoiding transmitting COVID-19, that could lead to the reopening of those bars.”

But the governor said the fact of the matter is that bars are places where people gather without face masks, drink and forget all about safety protocols.

On the topic of college football, Abbott said he hasn’t yet had time to meet with university and athletic department leaders about the latest developments.

“I will tell you my thought process and that is I support the student-athletes and their decisions but I think that the health and safety and the careers of the student-athletes come first,” he said.

He said that he trusts the players when it comes to a decision to take the field in the fall.

"I would defer to the choice and decisions those athletes want to make," Abbott said.

The state will bear some of the burden of funding unemployment benefits under President Donald Trump’s executive order. Abbott confirmed he is working with the Trump Administration on that plan.

“The reality is this. The administration continues to negotiate with the Democrats in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate on what the plan will look like. I have every reason to believe that when all the final deal is worked out, there will be a more robust deal that is struck between the administration and between congress to make sure that unemployment benefits will be provided adequately for those who have lost of job because of no fault of their own,” he said.

The governor also took a moment to thank of the state’s doctors, nurses and first responders who continue to put their lives on the line. He referenced 58-year-old Dudley Champ, a Jefferson County corrections officer who died Monday after being exposed to COVID-19.

“We need to embrace and support everyone who has stepped up to help their communities respond to COVID-19,” Abbott said.