Gov. Abbott Declares Disaster, Closes Schools, Bars, Gyms Statewide, Restaurants “To Go” Only

Statewide declaration runs March 20 through April 3, may be extended

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) took statewide action Thursday to mirror actions taken locally in Dallas and Tarrant counties earlier this week by declaring a disaster and ordering schools, bars, clubs and gyms to close and for restaurants to offer only "to go" service.

The statewide declaration comes after more than 250 people across the state have been infected by the virus including four who have died, three of whom were in North Texas. On Thursday, 20 new cases were confirmed in Dallas County, including one death, and another 10 were confirmed in Tarrant County.

Abbott said Texans should gather in groups of no more than 10 people and that they should avoid large crowds.

Dr. John Hellerstedt Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) explains "the time to act is now" and that statewide coronavirus measures are necessary.

The governor added that people are not permitted to visit nursing homes or retirement centers unless they are providing critical assistance. This recommendation comes a day after Abbott visited Arlington where a resident of the Texas Masonic Retirement home, with no travel history, was confirmed to have died after contracting the virus.

Abbott's declaration goes into effect Friday at midnight and will remain in effect until April 3; the governor said the declaration may be extended depending on need.

While public schools are to remain closed, Abbott said superintendents should continue to find ways to continue education online or through other options.

The order is not a shelter in place order, Abbott said. The order does not stop people from going to parks, banks or grocery stores and domestic travel remains unrestricted, but does recommend that they avoid large groups.

"We must strangle the expansion [of COVID-19] by reducing the ways we are currently transmitting it," Abbott said. "We are doing this now, today, so that we can get back to business as usual more quickly."

Coronavirus Cases in Texas

Locations on the map are approximate county locations and are not intended to identify where any infected people live.

Case data was pulled from a variety of sources including county health departments and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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