Texas Gov. Abbott declares statewide emergency over coronavirus pandemic

‘We’re going to make it through this together’

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a statewide emergency Friday over the new coronavirus pandemic.

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a statewide emergency Friday over the new coronavirus pandemic.

Abbott also announced that San Antonio will be the first city in the state to have a “drive-thru” testing facility for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

He said the new testing location could open as early as Friday. The testing is for first responders and hospital medical professionals only. Similar facilities are expected to open in Houston, Dallas and Austin next week.

Abbott said state officials have asked insurers to waive costs on testing and telemedicine visits concerning coronavirus, and many have agreed to comply. Uninsured individuals can be testing via public health at cost if they fulfill requirements. Uninsured individuals can also be tested via private labs though there could be an associated cost.

Residents should call 211 for more information on local testing.

As of the Friday afternoon press conference, Abbott said at least 39 people in the state have tested positive (not including the 11 confirmed cases among American evacuees at JBSA-Lackland). He said 220 Texans have been tested for the virus so far and 75 others are being tested currently.

The announcement comes hours after San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg extended the local public health emergency for the city, which prohibits public and private gatherings among more than 500 people.

In an effort to reduce the spread of the virus, Abbott said he’s directing state agencies to develop a plan to restrict visitors to nursing homes, hospital, day care facilities, jails and state prisons.

Abbott said if schools are shut down, the state will seek waivers for school lunch programs so that children can continue to have breakfast and lunch.

The governor also discouraged Texans from going to stores and stocking up on water and other supplies, saying the emergency isn’t similar to that of a hurricane.

“There’s absolutely no need to stockpile supplies. Hoarding is neither necessary nor productive, " Abbott said.

He urged employers to develop strategies to have people work flexible hours and to work from home.

Abbott said despite the fear the virus is causing, he wants Texans to be optimistic.

“We’re going to make it through this together,” he said.

A website has been set up for Texans to get information on the virus and for help related to it.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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About the Authors:

Ben Spicer is a digital journalist who works the early morning shift for KSAT.

Kolten Parker is digital executive producer at KSAT. He is an amateur triathlete, enjoys playing and watching soccer, traveling and hanging out with his wife.