Governor declares state of disaster for Texas

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster as the coronavirus pandemic spreads to all of the state's biggest cities. Texas Governor Greg Abbott made the announcement in a joint press conference with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).

“I want to assure the people of Texas that we're going to make it through this. we made it through SARS, we made it through Ebola, we made it through H1N1, we're going to make it through this together as well,” Abbott said.   

The declaration Friday came as the number of COVID-19 cases is climbing and reaching into San Antonio and Austin. 

Illnesses were reported in those cities for the first time Friday.

San Antonio is banning large public gatherings. Its giant Fiesta celebration will be postponed until November. That follows Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson issuing a proclamation late Thursday declaring a local state of disaster for the city of 1.3 million people. 

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Governor Abbott also announced during the press conference that the first drive-thru COVID-19 testing facility in Texas opened has opened in San Antonio. He says, initially, the testing facility will be for first responders, healthcare workers, operators of critical infrastructure and resources, and certain high-risk patients.

“Texas public health labs have the capacity to test 273 people per day, currently, with that ability to increase. Also, with private labs coming online, importantly, next week, CPL will be able to test several thousand per week,” said Abbott.

Others expected soon in Dallas, Houston, and Austin.

It was also announced that AT&T will be waiving internet data usage fees for everyone who does not have access to unlimited data.

During the news conference, Gov. Abbott asked anyone who feels sick to stay home while directing state agencies to provide "flexible work and telework policies" to state employees so that they may take care of their families while allowing the government to still function. 

People are urged to continue to practice proper hygiene practices including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Stay home when you are sick. 
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover it, then throw the tissue in the trash. 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. 

If you have symptoms of respiratory illness including cough, fever, and shortness of breath, please contact your health care provider. It is important to call ahead before arriving at a clinic, urgent care or emergency department to avoid potential spread.