AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a new executive order Tuesday extending school closures until at least May 4 as residents continue to stem the rise of the novel coronavirus.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Abbott also updated social distancing guidelines for Texas and extended them through April 30. However, he stopped short of issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order as some groups, including the Texas Hospital Association and Texas Nurses Association, have requested. At least 30 states have such orders in place.
Abbott said that Texans are taking social distancing seriously and that their compliance is helping the state battle the new virus. He noted that only 2.4% of hospital beds set aside COVID-19 patients are currently occupied in the state.
“Now is not the time for us to let up,” Abbott said. “Now is the time to instead redouble our efforts to make sure we get rid of the coronavirus.”
As of Tuesday, Abbott said that about 43,000 Texans have been tested for COVID-19 so far and that about 3,200 of those have been confirmed positive. Abbott also said 41 people have died from complications. He added that 122 of 254 counties have at least one case.
Abbott updated his social distancing guidelines by executive order to define essential activities that are still allowed in Texas — if people follow social distancing guidelines. That includes grocery shopping, getting gas, hunting and fishing and exercise.
Abbott said the updates follow the guidelines set forth in President Donald Trump’s latest update and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More information on essential services can be found here.
“We have more to do for Texas to reach its determined destiny. Together, we will persevere through this.” Abbott said.
Abbott said religious services should either be held remotely or in-person, if social distancing guidelines are followed.
Businesses that are not deemed essential may continue to operate remotely, he said.
Anyone violating these orders is subject to face 180 days in jail or a $1,000 fine, Abbott said.
Many schools in San Antonio have already extended their closures until late April, but Abbott’s order will supersede that decision, keeping the closures in place until early May.
Abbott was accompanied by Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd, and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath.
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.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE FROM KSAT: