Gov. Greg Abbott updated Texans about the state's fight against the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday afternoon, addressing topics ranging from people unable to reach the Texas Workforce Commission to efforts to help small businesses get back on their feet.
The number of positive coronavirus tests and fatalities continue to rise in the state and Abbott encouraged Texans to continue to stay at home and social distance.
“It’s something no one really cherishes to do, unless you step back and think about it,” Abbott said at the news conference. “[If you stay home] you will not be involved in any type of process of spreading coronavirus in the state of Texas… Please continue the success so we will be sure to contain the spread of the coronavirus.”
There have been 96,258 tests in Texas with 9,107 positive coronavirus cases, as of the noon news conference. Of those, 1,491 patients have been hospitalized and there have been 175 deaths.
The coronavirus will continue to spread and there will be more cases, said Dr. John Hellerstedt, the commissioner of Texas Health and Human Services.
“The things we put in place are working and we are actually going to slow down and reverse the spread of the disease in Texas,” Hellerstedt said at the news conference.
Texas Workforce Commission
Abbott said the Texas Workforce Commission saw the highest spike in calls ever in this five-week period and it has processed more claims during that time than in all of 2019.
Hundreds of additional staffers were brought on to make the process quicker for Texans. About 250 members of the Texas House and Senate staff stepped up to help manage unemployment benefit claims.
“The Texas Workforce Commission is making sure everyone who may be eligible for those benefits will receive those benefits,” Abbott said.
PPE supplies and available hospital beds
The governor praised his supply chain strike force for getting personal protective equipment to health care workers. There were 21,066 hospital beds available and 2,225 ICU beds available in Texas as of Tuesday, he said. There were 7,686 ventilators available.
Many businesses and individuals are stepping up to help get supplies to health care workers in need, including Prestige Ameritech in North Richland Hills. He said the company is ramping up production to supply 2 million masks to Texans per week. The company has added a shift with National Guard members to help with the demand.
The same company has been producing masks for years, including during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Dallas.
Many small businesses in North Texas are struggling or have closed due to the coronavirus. Abbott said that he spoke with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to “get certain portions of business up and running again.”
He said they want to make sure they do it in a way that doesn’t increase or restart the spread of coronavirus.
Abbott said he hopes to get it going as quickly as possible and hopes to make an announcement soon.
Senior living facilities, state-supported living facilities
People living at senior living facilities, retirement communities and other similar locations are viewed as a very vulnerable population, Abbott said.
He mentioned his earlier order that prevented visitors to any facility across the state to help contain the spread of coronavirus. He praised the task force response at the Texas Masonic Retirement Center in Arlington following the death of a 77-year-old resident due to coronavirus.
The facility doesn’t currently have any coronavirus cases, Abbott said.