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Gov. Abbott: Texas may need ‘stricter enforcement’ of social distancing orders

Greg Abbott said he’ll ‘continue to evaluate’ enforcement, restrictions

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that he may impose more or tighter restrictions and enforcement during the coronavirus pandemic if people are not serious about maintaining social distancing orders from the state and local government.

“It’s clear to me that we may not be achieving the level of compliance that is needed,” Abbott said Tuesday during a news conference.

Abbott said he "will continue to evaluate … whether or not there needs to be heightened standard and stricter enforcement” from a statewide level and remains “flexible” in expanding those restrictions. Ultimately, Abbott said his goal is to reduce the spread of the virus to ensure that hospital capacity is not overwhelmed.

The comments came as several cities and counties across Texas have issued their own shelter-in-place orders, like San Antonio and Bexar County did on Monday. Abbott so far has stopped short of issuing a statewide shelter in place order, but closed schools and banned public gatherings of more than 10 people through April 3.

SAQ: Is there punishment for violation of San Antonio’s ‘Stay at Home’ order?

Abbott also issued a new executive order Tuesday directing hospitals to submit daily capacity reports and private labs who are testing for COVID-19 to submit daily testing figures to the state health department.

The state health department will, in turn, give the reports to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help monitor the pandemic.

Abbott said 715 Texans have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the state’s health department. The cases come from 65 counties and up to 11,000 tests have been conducted so far. Eleven Texans have died of the virus, Abbott said.

Map: Track COVID-19 cases in Texas, county-by-county updates

The governor praised the Texan medical community and other residents who have helped contribute personal protective equipment to help doctors and nurses treat patients infected with COVID-19.

“We’re so pleased, proud and grateful for everyone who is offering donations,” Abbott said.

Due to their efforts and a medical supply strike force established over the weekend by Abbott, Texas will begin to receive more than a million surgical masks per week, next week, he said.

He urged anyone who has personal protective equipment and doctors and nurses to volunteer their time or donate their resources at www.texas.gov.

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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