AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott warned Texans to avoid tiring of following state and local guidelines relating to COVID-19 during a briefing in West Texas on Thursday.
Abbott met with local officials in Lubbock and El Paso to discuss regional COVID-19 updates.
“Listen, there’s a reality— people have had an altered state of life for the past few months, one that requires wearing a mask, one that requires staying at home if at all possible, one that reduces your level of interactivity with others and that’s a challenge, a once in a lifetime challenge,” abbott said.
“It is easy to get a sense of fatigue, it is easy to want to stop having to comply with those standards,” Abbott said.
“COVID-19 still exists in Lubbock, it still exists in Texas, it still exists globally, and if people do not continue to in a very disciplined way, maintain the highest level of standards, which you will see is an acceleration of the expansion of COVID-19,” Abbott added.
With the upcoming Labor Day weekend and flu season approaching, Abbott says health leaders worry about hospital systems being overrun with patients.
“It’s so important for people to not let their guard down during the Labor Day holiday, like they did during Memorial Day,” Abbott said. “If Texans and people in Lubbock refuse to let their guard down, especially on holidays, they will be able to contain the spread of COVID-19, they will be able to prevent hospitals from becoming overrun with patients.”
Abbott also thanked Texas Tech University for its innovation during the pandemic, working to produce supplies to transport test kits.
“It immediately and very substantially increased our ability to increase testing across the state of Texas, that would not have been capable, without what they have done,” he explained.
Abbott was joined by Chief Nim Kidd of the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
“It’s refreshing to come into a community and hear about the innovation, about the work that’s been done here that didn’t require additional outside assistance you guys have knocked it out of the park and so thank you for taking care of your Texans,” Kidd said.
In Lubbock, Mayor Dan Pope emphasized the community’s resilience thus far.
“The people in this part of the world were not soft, they were tough people, they found a way to make it happen, and that spirit persists today,” he said.
When football season decisions being made, Pope said the college town needs to take special care when considering reopening processes.
“Football is important to us, it’s important to a college town, and having our businesses reopened is important to men and women who work that want to put food on the table for their families,” Pope said. “And that’s why safely reopening our economy and our schools, makes so much sense.”
On the state’s positivity rate continuing to climb, Abbott said the Texas Department of State Health Services has brought on investigators to look into possible reasons for growth in that category. He said the state has so far found a few possible key points. He said fewer people had been tested in the past few weeks, compared to previous months, adding that surge testing plus more interest led to more tests being conducted.
“We have observed for the past couple of weeks, a decline in the number of people stepping forward to get tested,” Abbott said. “We do have abundant testing capacity, where far more daily testing capacity than the test being undertaken because we’re not having enough people step forward to be tested as we did before.”
“We’re working on strategies as we speak. that will be easy pathways to increase more people being tested, so you can expect to see those test numbers go up here in the coming days,” he said.
In schools, Abbott said the state is working alongside some companies to produce widespread testing capabilities for schools and nursing homes, including tests with same-day turnaround tests for nursing homes “that should begin this week” and more fully, next week.
Regarding schools facing shortages in technology, Abbott said the state is working with districts to close the digital divide by supplying internet hotspots and laptops. He also indicated additional federal funding could be made available.
Some Texas schools have experienced delays in delivery of technology, including backorders between 4-10 weeks for Chromebooks. Abbott said the Texas Education Agency is working with districts to ensure technology needs are met.
“We’re working on the supply chain issues for the technology tools that are needed for the successful opening of school and education of our students,” he stated.
Abbott participated in similar briefings and press conferences in Beaumont and in Victoria on Tuesday.
In El Paso, Abbott highlighted the concept of COVID-fatigue again.
“The COVID disease doesn’t care about COVID fatigue,” he stated, mentioning that the virus does not discriminate in the people it might manifest itself in.
Abbott said the community’s response to the outbreak has led to declines in hospitalizations and overall confirmed cases of the virus.
“There’s going to be lives saved because of the way El Pasoans responded to COVID,” Abbott said, acknowledging that even though the troubling numbers were on the decline, the virus exists in El Paso just as much as it existed weeks and months ago. Following best practices allows for engaging in business and education activity, Abbott said, but if people let their guards down, “you’ll see an increase of COVID-19 again.”
Ongoing needs include additional testing sites, and possibly adding more tests for the community, Abbott said, explaining that there are more testing sites and collection equipment available “all day every day” than there are people looking for tests.
“There are tests available for you as we speak,” he said, encouraging more Texans to get tested.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said the University of Texas at El Paso is going to be able to process 2,500 test analyses per week, assisting in faster turnaround times.
One point of concern, Margo said, was travel between El Paso and it’s neighbor Juarez. Margo said it was important to keep that border travel to essential for now.