SAN ANTONIO – Texas will soon begin to test asymptomatic residents as part of strategy to reopen businesses, Governor Greg Abbott said Friday in an exclusive interview with KSAT 12 News.
Because testing resources and capacity have been limited, people without common COVID-19 symptoms have largely been unable to receive a test in most parts of the state. This worries medical experts because the new coronavirus can be spread by asymptomatic carriers.
Abbott was the Q&A guest on KSAT 12 News Friday evening SAQ segment at 6:30 p.m.
Anchors Deven Clarke and Isis Romero asked the governor questions on his plans to reopen the state, the possibility of a spike in cases and the balance of reopening businesses while watching out for people’s safety. See the video and a full Q-and-A below.
We’ve started to see some restrictions loosen up. What can Texans expect from your next announcement?
Abbott: “Well, there are two important factors. One is we know people want to get back to work. We know that business owners, they need to start having some income to pay for their rent or overhead that employees, they need to go back to work. They have livelihoods to take care of. They have their own bills to pay, their own families to take care of. And so we want to stoke the Texas economy as much as possible. However, we must do it safely. As a result, we’re working on orders that will allow businesses to open up in phases gradually in on the lines of what doctors have prescribed to us. I have a team of four doctors who are looking at all different types of businesses and strategies that they can open safely without stoking a spread of the coronavirus. People in San Antonio and across Texas have done a fabulous job of slowing the spread of the coronavirus. We must continue to slow that spread as we begin to open up businesses.”
In San Antonio, we may have not reached our peak yet. What happens if we see a spike in cases?
Abbott: “First, I’ll tell you this, my observation of Bexar County. Look at these on county by county basis, Bexar County is doing a good job of slowing the spread. The studies I see show that actually Bexar County has reached the peak in the number of cases and you have a declining number of cases. So I think things are looking good. However, you raise a very good question. And that is one thing that all scientists and doctors say is that as we do begin to open up, there could be an increase in the number of coronavirus cases. Two things about it. One reason for an increase is we are going to be doing more testing. We’ll be doing what’s called testing and tracing all across Bexar County to identify any types of hotspots. If there are hotspots where there is a sudden rise or increase in the number of people testing positive, we will provide all the medical care needed in order to quickly address it and to reduce it if it’s widespread. Let’s say all across Bexar County, for example, it could lead to a retrenchment in the amount of business that’s taking place. That is why we’re doing this in slow phases to make sure that we try to minimize any expansion of the coronavirus.”
What do you say to people who think it’s simply too soon to open businesses?
Abbott: “Well, you know, it’s a careful balance to those who think it’s too soon. I’ve realized that safety is their first concern. They need to know that we have a doctor who was the former head of the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration. He was the former head of Medicaid and Medicare for the United States. We have another doctor who is in charge of COVID-19 tracing and tracking for the University of Texas. So we have the best doctors advising us on the safe way. But we have to balance that with the interest of others who also say we’ve been homebound for too long. We have to get back to work to pay our bills. And so I think we are going to strike the right balance.”
What do you think about testing asymptomatic people?
Abbott: “Sure. That is a part of the strategy that we will be unveiling on Monday. And you know what we’ve seen in California and New York and that is they did test those who are asymptomatic and they learned there were far more people than what they knew about who actually had the coronavirus, but never showed any type of symptoms. What that means into the positive news is that the percentage of people who had the coronavirus who have to be hospitalized or who die from it is actually far lower than what people think.”
Any last thoughts you want our viewers to know?
Abbott: “As we begin the process of opening up businesses in the state of Texas, it is essential that you continue your distancing practices. It’s essential that you continue to do everything you can to slow the spread. If you don’t have to get out, still remain at home so we can contain the coronavirus in Texas.”
Find more answers and ask your own questions on our SAQ page. Watch anchor Steve Spriester ask local leaders your questions weeknights at 6 p.m. on KSAT12 and 9 p.m. on KSAT-TV and KSAT.com. You can also sign up for our free SAQ newsletter to get answers to the most common questions in your inbox.
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