SAN ANTONIO – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said local governments do not need more authority to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during an interview on Wednesday on KSAT 12 News.
For weeks, local officials from around the state, including San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, have asked Abbott to allow them to impose tighter restrictions as major cities across Texas continue to deal with a deadly COVID-19 surge that has not relented since June.
Abbott said local governments are better off enforcing the current protocols in place, like the statewide mask mandate the governor issued last month.
“I have returned a large amount of authority to local officials,” Abbott said. “(Local governments) have the authority to enforce all of these protocols that are safe protocols.”
Abbott said the current policies in place are working, citing a University of North Texas study that suggested the mask mandate has reduced the state’s positivity rate, or the number of Texans testing positive for COVID-19.
“So what (local governments) need to begin to do is to use the tools they have to make sure that the current strategies are enforced,” Abbott said. “That way, we can contain the spread of COVID-19 without forcing people into poverty.”
Abbott said he is seeing “glimmers of improvements” in the state’s struggle to control the virus, but he emphasized that the coronavirus “is not leaving anytime soon.”
“The only thing this points out is that there are improvements coming as a result of more people adopting this practice of wearing face masks,” Abbott said.
While the state’s positivity rate has declined since hitting a peak of 17% on July 16, it still hovered around 14% as of Wednesday, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
For the second consecutive day, the state also reported a record-high in COVID-19 hospitalizations, and roughly 40% of Texas’ COVID-19 death toll came in July alone, the numbers showed.
The surge resulted in the Texas Education Agency allowing public schools more time to offer virtual learning.
Abbott said the agency’s plan will ensure that “distance learning will be achievable in a very effective way by empowering both the teachers as well as the students.”