PUBLIC HEALTH DISASTER: Abbott issues orders to limit social gatherings, close schools, restaurants, gyms

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference as he announced the signing of a state disaster declaration to maximize resources for the state to tackle novel coronavirus cases on March 13, 2020. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN, Texas (KETK) – Governor Greg Abbott issued a declaration of public health disaster Thursday, saying the orders issued under that declaration are intended to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting social gatherings of more than 10 people, shutting down inside-dining in restaurants and bars, closing gyms, and prohibiting visits to hospitals, nursing homes or long-term care facilities except to provide “critical assistance” to patients.

He also ordered all school districts in Texas to close at least through April 3.

“This does not mean education should stop in Texas,” he said, urging districts and parents to find alternative means of teaching, such as putting courses online.

The order allows for drive-through and delivery of food from restaurants.

The governor announced the order at a press briefing Thursday. It takes effect at midnight Friday.

The order, he stressed, “is not a shelter in place order,” as other places around the country have seen.

“This does not prohibit people from going to grocery stores or getting gas,” Abbott said. “Domestic travel is not prohibited. Offices and workplaces remain open, though employers should only ask essential personnel to report to work and encourage others to work remotely.”

The order, Abbott said, is an essential tool in fighting the spread of COVID-19. He cited rapidly rising numbers of confirmed cases throughout the state and the death from the illness in Dallas County, confirmed Thursday, of a man in his 60s and with no chronic health conditions.

The man was found dead in his home. His death was the first connected to COVID-19 confirmed in Dallas County and was one of the 20 new cases confirmed in the county that same day.

“We must strangle the spread of (COVID-19) by reducing the ways we are currently transmitting it,” Abbott said. “The more that people do to reduce their personal contact, the sooner COVID-19 will be contained. We are doing this today so that we can get back to business more quickly.”

He said is order applies standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“Texans have always come together in the face of disaster,” Abbott said, urging statewide solidarity and cooperation in fighting the illness that has swept the state, the nation, and the globe. “No one responds to challenges better than Texans.”

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