As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands are all reporting COVID-19 cases. There are 76 cases in Texas as of that time.
In a one-on-one satellite interview with KVUE's Quita Culpepper, Abbott discussed the state of disaster he declared last week, his activation of the National Guard and what the State is doing to increase COVID-19 testing.
Quita Culpepper: "Austin is one of the Texas cities that ordered all dining rooms, bars and other places to shut down – and so far, local governments seem to be the ones making these decisions. Are you considering a statewide order for these kinds of closures to happen?"
Gov. Greg Abbott: "Well, see, exactly what happened is that when I issued the disaster declaration that empowered local jurisdictions to do exactly what they were doing, so that these things work in tandem. And what the City of Austin is doing is exactly what the president talked about yesterday and today. And that is the importance of making sure we maintain good distancing practices and that means not having crowds of more than 10 people. So, everything is working exactly the way that it should. When we have what we call natural disasters and national disasters like this, it is essential that we have the federal, state and local governments all working collaboratively."
Culpepper: "And just a short time ago, Governor, you made a request that could help small businesses that are being hit so hard by all these closures."
Abbott: "Right. So, among other things that we've done, we've made certain requests to Washington, D.C., whether it be on SBA loans, whatever the case may be. But, very importantly, is what's going to be taking place this week in the United States Congress. The U.S. Senate has taken up the bill that was passed out of the U.S. House. The Senate bill, they're looking to add even more items in that will help the business owners who are suffering so much, as well as their employees. One thing that Washington seems to be paying attention to that we are also here in Texas, and that is looking to make sure we do everything we can to help our business owners and the employees who work for them."
Culpepper: "Earlier today, you activated the National Guard to assist with response efforts. Exactly what does this mean? What will they be doing?"
Abbott: "First, we have been working with the general in charge of the National Guard going back to mid-January. And her team and my team have been collaborating and planning exactly how we would be responding to COVID-19 or to the coronavirus. Now what we're going to do is we're beginning to get ready to mobilize National Guard members as needed to different locations. That could be to assist with, let's say, traffic operations that these drive-thru testing facilities. It could be – I had a meeting today with CEOs of hospitals and they said that the National Guard could help them in organizing a few things around their hospitals. And so, it just depends on who makes a request for their assistance. We want them to know that we have many members of the Texas National Guard who are ready at a moment's notice to be able to step up and help out."
Culpepper: "Now, how is the State working to make sure that we can speed up how many more people can be tested for COVID-19?"
Abbott: "So, this is ramping up as we speak. This week, we're going to test about 15,000 people and that will be through FEMA-provided testing sites. In addition to that, you've seen here in Austin, there've been several drive-thru operations that have already opened and there will be more opening here later this week, as well as in the coming weeks. So, our goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to get tested. Understanding this, however, and that is healthy people don't need a COVID-19 test and probably will not be allowed to get one. There is a singular goal for testing and that is to identify everybody who has COVID-19. The reason why we want to identify them is so that they can be isolated so that they don't spread the disease to others. So, we're looking for people who have symptoms that may be consistent with COVID-19 who can get a doctor's order recommending that they get a COVID-19 test."
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