Abbott says plenty of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients as Texas mayors ask for mask requirements

Despite another record-high number of coronavirus cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said on Tuesday that hospital capacity remains abundant as local leaders asked for the ability to require people to wear masks.

Abbott said Texas has the second-lowest death rate in the nation and more than enough hospital beds available to treat those who are sick, despite the increasing rates of hospitalizations in the past two weeks.

There were 2,622 new positive COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday across the state, another single-day record number of cases for Texas.

The mayors of Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Plano and Grand Prairie along with other Texas mayors signed a letter to the governor asking him for the authority to require people to wear masks in public.

Abbott previously banned local governments from imposing fines or criminal penalties on people who do not wear masks. His emergency order said his rules supercede any new rules local governments try to make.

The mayors argue that "one size fits all" approach does not work.

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In a live interview on FOX4, Abbott accused local leaders of not enforcing current standards -- even though a mask requirement isn't one of those standards.

He then turned the subject back to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, accusing the judge of wanting to jail people. Jenkins and Abbott have sparred off and on throughout the pandemic over public health measures.

“It’s unacceptable during the time of pandemic to be putting people behind bars,” Abbott said, referring to Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther. “Especially when he should not be stoking hysteria, he should be stoking encouragement among his constituents to collaborate together to make sure they reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

Jenkins said in a written statement that he does not have that authority, but wants more local control over that decision-making.

“Let’s be clear about masking. No one could be jailed for not wearing a mask under my or the City of Dallas' orders,” Jenkins said.

At his afternoon press conference, the governor defended plans to reopen even as the virus continues to spread.

Abbott blamed the record number of cases Tuesday on spikes in counties like Collin County, where the results of batch reporting have returned. Many of Collin County’s 120 positive cases Tuesday were test results from residents at the Arbor Hills Memory Care Community.

The governor also blamed the increase on people gathering on Memorial Day and going out to bars. There are certain counties where a majority of those testing positive are under the age of 30.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will issue warnings to bars and restaurants and possibly suspend liquor licenses if they are violating orders and not practicing safe standards, he said.

RELATED: Interactive map of Texas COVID-19 cases