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Governor Greg Abbott hosts virtual town hall Thursday

Texans can submit questions through social media videos

A group of coronavirus specimen collection units sit on the desk where Texas Governor Greg Abbott, center, addressed the coronavirus death of Patrick James who resided at the Texas Masonic Retirement Center. The press conference was held in the Arlington Emergency Management office in Arlington, Wednesday March 18, 2020. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
A group of coronavirus specimen collection units sit on the desk where Texas Governor Greg Abbott, center, addressed the coronavirus death of Patrick James who resided at the Texas Masonic Retirement Center. The press conference was held in the Arlington Emergency Management office in Arlington, Wednesday March 18, 2020. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP) (The Dallas Morning News)

When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a public health disaster Thursday at noon, there were three coronavirus-related deaths reported in the state. By the evening, the death toll reached five.

Abbott talked about the need to implement his disaster declaration to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout Texas during a virtual town hall meeting held in Austin on Thursday evening.

During the meeting, Abbott again committed to having 20,000 tests available by the end of the week. Abbott also touched up on the impact on the economy, the decision to close schools and price gouging complaints.

Here’s a few of the questions Abbott answered during the town hall.

When will small businesses be able to apply for financial help?

Abbott said the federal government is in the process of approving Texas’ small business loan applications. He said small businesses should be able to apply through the Small Business Administration by Monday at the latest.

Will grocery stores stay open?

Abbott stressed that grocery stores do not have supply issues and that people do not need to panic buy or hoard groceries. He said he was “confident” about the supply chains and does not think it will be disrupted.

What should we expect in the economy?

Abbott said “this will be a tough economic time.” Several industries, like the restaurant industry, have been decimated by the emergency declarations.

“The only thing that would be tougher is if we do not take this action right now,” Abbott said.

Although he said he can’t forecast the unemployment numbers, he said officials are working to address those needs.

Will the virus die off in warmer weather?

Dr. John Hellerstedt, the Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner, said that because the virus is a novel one that has not been seen before, it’s impossible to predict whether warmer weather will help kill the spread of COVID-19.

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