Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said wearing face masks was essential to avoiding another lockdown and addressed questions about the reopening of schools in an interview with NBC Houston affiliate KPRC Wednesday,
"If everyone can adopt the practice of wearing a face mask for the next four weeks, we will be able to get COVID-19 under control," Abbott said to KPRC.
Texas set more record-highs this week with nearly 10,800 COVID-19 cases Tuesday along with another 10,291 on Thursday.
Deaths have been steadily climbing in the Lone Star State for the last month, going from 209 on the week of June 21 to nearly 600 last week. So far this week there have been more than 300 new deaths during the first three days of the week. On Thursday, the state reported 129 deaths -- the most reported in a single day related to the pandemic.
Hospitalizations have dropped slightly over the last two days, but the state's positivity rating still hovers just under 17%, leading many to wonder if the governor will once again shut down the state to try to get a handle on the virus.
"I get this question, it seems like, a thousand times a day. People are panicking thinking I'm about to shut down Texas again. The answer is no. That is not the goal. I've been abundantly clear. I've been saying exactly what the head of (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) said today and that is if everyone can adopt the practice of wearing a face mask for the next four weeks, we will be able to get COVID-19 under control," Abbott said. "That is my message when I issued my executive order. I said that what I want to do is make sure everyone begins to wear a mask so that we will be able to get COVID-19 under control so that we will not have to shut Texas back down."
When asked about the mental aspect of the pandemic, wearing masks and being isolated from others for extended periods of time, the governor was optimistic.
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"I don't want to get too deep and philosophical with you but the reason why we still exist as a species is our inherent adaptability. What we need to do is put that adaptability, that flexibility, our ingenuity, our innovative sense to work here as we go through the process of just navigating the next few months. Understanding that we're only a few months away from getting medical treatments that will be able to treat COVID-19 and then a few months after that before we have vaccines. This is a very short period of time," Abbott said.
As several North Texas school districts decided to either delay in-person education or the start of school altogether, the governor said it's important for kids to be in the classroom but that they "obviously don't want to inject children or teachers or parents into an unsafe situation." Abbott said the Texas Education Agency has provided flexibility to school districts to let school boards and school districts make decisions about how they are going to begin the school year, learning distance-wise or in the classroom.
Given how the cases have skyrocketed in Texas in the last four to six weeks, Abbott admits part of his aggressive Open Texas plan that allowed some businesses to reopen may have been a mistake.
"As I've said before, if you track what happened in the aftermath of the reopening, the positivity rate declined all the way down to about 4.5% after Memorial Day. But it was the opening up of bars, the celebration of Memorial Day, graduations -- all those things taking place at the same time," Abbott said. "As we've learned what we've been through, we've realized that perhaps we opened up bars too soon and maybe we should not have opened them up at all because a bar, as a setting just leads to a transmission of COVID-19. So, it's just a matter of learning these best, safe strategies to make sure we get things under control."
Abbott again reiterated that if Texans would follow the order to wear masks, that'll go a long way toward taking control of the spread of the virus.
"All we need is for people to wear a mask. If everyone wears a mask, nothing will be locked down," Abbott said.