More big Texas cities order residents to stay home

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gestures to boxes of personal protective equipment during a press conference about the state's response to the coronavirus on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

By JIM VERTUNO Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Several more major Texas cities issued orders telling their residents to stay in their homes on Tuesday, even as Gov. Greg Abbott continued to resist calls for a statewide order.

Houston, Austin, El Paso and Fort Worth all issued stay-at-home orders, following the lead of local officials in the Dallas and San Antonio areas earlier this week.

The restrictions mean residents must stay at home except for essential activities.

Generally, businesses including grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants with deliver and takeout will remain open during such orders.

Abbott, who again on Tuesday urged Texans to “stay at home,” previously banned dine-in eating at restaurants and social gatherings of 10 or more and he closed schools, gyms and bars. He said he’ll keep monitoring how well Texans heed the call for social distancing, and he hinted that stronger statewide measures could be coming, though he stopped short of promising them.

Abbott said he was surprised by how many cars he saw on the road as he traveled to his news conference in Austin.

“It is clear to me, we may not be achieving the level of compliance that is needed,” Abbott said. “I remain flexible in my statewide standard.”

Abbott also addressed calls by President Donald Trump and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to quickly get businesses up and running again to help the economy.

“I will base my decisions as governor of the state of Texas on what physicians say,” Abbott said. “The primary obligation that we all have, is public health and safety. … If the goal is to get the economy going, the best thing we can do to get the economy going is to get COVID-19 behind us.”

Eleven deaths have been reported so far in Texas, along with more than 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness linked to coronavirus. It has now appeared in 65 of Texas’ 254 counties, with more than 11,000 tests conducted statewide.

The vast majority of people who contract the virus recover within weeks. It causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but it can lead to more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Abbott on Tuesday ordered hospitals to submit daily reports on bed capacity and for healthcare providers to submit daily reports on COVID-19 tests.

He said the state is seeing a massive influx of medical supplies such as masks, gloves and gowns for health care workers. Texas will be receiving more than 1 million masks per week by next week, Abbott said.

“The state of Texas is competing with other states for supplies, and competing with the federal government for supplies,” he said.

Texas also reported its first prisoner to test positive for COVID-19. The 37-year-old man is in medical isolation at a Galveston hospital, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced.

The prisoner reported having a cough and shortness of breath while being held at a state jail in Humble, northeast of Houston.

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