DALLAS — It's the question that has been on every Texas parent's mind since students moved to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic: will students return to classrooms in August?
In an interview on WFAA on Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott said the plan is for them to return.
Read on for his full comments on schools, as well as more of what Abbott said about reopening the Texas economy and keeping residents of all ages safe amid COVID-19.
Come August, do you think schools will be back in session?
That's our plan right now. We're working with the education commissioner on strategies for schools to open safely.
They should be able to return to classrooms. The protocol in the classrooms likely would be different because there would greater sanitization, certain distancing practices, etc. to make sure they are having school in ways that prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As well as incorporating occasional distance learning over things like Zoom like what they were able to do at the end of the school year. We do believe and hope that students will be able to return to the classroom this August.
What would you tell your own friend or family member who's considering going to a bar this evening?
Be safe. I did this when I first went out to restaurants when they I got open. As I went out to restaurants, I saw how safe they were. And the same thing needs to take place at these bars.
These bar owners, they need to be back in business. They need to be able to pay their rent and their employees need to be able to earn a paycheck, but the patrons also need to be safe.
Go enjoy yourself, but be safe while you're doing so. Make sure you do not spread COVID-19. The reason why we are able to open up bars is because people have been responsible to have slowed the spread of COVID-19.
We must maintain those safe practices so we can continue to open up businesses.
Since you have stated that those who break the rules should face jail time, what should police do about bars that go over that 25% capacity?
Listen, there's all different types of enforcement mechanisms. The fine still remains one of the enforcement mechanisms.
Another with regards to bars: their subject to regularoty compliance with TABC and the TABC, even before COVID, they had the ability to remove someone's license to have a bar that's operational.
So as a result, the bars know they need to stay in compliance. And I think they will because they gave us good standards they wanted to follow. They want to follow the rules because they want to stay open.
Your most recent order allows youth sports leagues to start practice in a little over a week. What kind of guidance are you providing to organizations who run these leagues? With that, is there any way to play full-contact sports like football without potentially exposing athletes to the coronavirus?
What we have authorized so far does not involve full contact sports. It involves non-contact sports. But it could be youth camps or different types of organizations, as well as leagues like little league baseball.
But we did provide specific guidance to all these different leagues as well as the camps about strategies they need to follow in order to make sure, whether it be for the children who are playing in these leagues or the adults who are showing up, make sure they maintain these safe practices of distancing, good hand hygiene, things like that to make sure that we are able to engage in activities like this without spreading COVID-19.
As more places reopen, we're seeing fewer people wearing masks. Should Texans still be wearing masks to protect themselves and others?
The reason why these people are able to go to events like this is because for the past two months they've been practicing these safe practices to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Everyone needs to understand what I'm about to say. COVID-19 has not suddenly just left the state of Texas or the U.S.
It is still here. It can still be transmitted. And if people do not continue those safe practices, including wearing a mask, it could lead to greater transmission of COVID-19. That would limit our ability to continue to open up businesses in Texas.
In Texas' five most-populated counties, Hispanics account for more positive cases than any other race or ethnicity. What is the state doing to address higher rates of infection, specifically among the Hispanic population?
We are adding more testing capabilities in areas where the population of hispanics may be greater. We want to get a greater grasp on exactly what the challenge is, the transmission rate, things like that.
We achieve that by providing additional testing as well as containment practices in those neighborhoods.
Four children were treated for an illness called Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Fort Worth. All four were exposed to a person who tested positive for the coronavirus. What is the state doing to track this condition?
This is relatively new in Texas. We've seen this in some other states, but now it's popping up in Texas.
The Department of State Health Services is in charge or tracking this along with the local health authorities. But this is something we are getting on top of to make sure that we don't have some outbreaks along these lines.
Obviously we want to do everything we can to maintain the health and safety of our children.
Viewer Kay Elaine on Twitter asks why are you reopening schools when the case rate is climbing, not going down? The recommendation was for 14 consecutive days of downturn and we haven't even reached the top.
Great question, Kay Elaine. I want you to know this. If you go to the White House Coronavirus Task Force standards for opening up, you'll see two different standards.
One is what you just articulated -- 14 straight days of reduced cases. It says or a downward trajectory in the positivity rate. And if you look at the numbers on the DSHS dashboard, you'll see that from mid-April until today we have that downward trajectory in the positive rate.
What I mean by that, if you look at all the people who were tested and those who have test positive, that number has decline from around 13% in a mid-April to 5% today.
So Texas has achieved the standard the White House set for being able to open up. And we are opening up safely.
We want to make sure that you and your family remain safe while we continue to engage in opening businesses in Texas.
More on Reopening in Texas:
- Some Texas counties are reporting zero COVID-19 test results. Here's why.
- What you need to know before flying out of DFW Airport, Dallas Love Field this summer
- Texas unemployment rate hits worst on record at 12.8%
- Reopening in Texas: Here's everything opening for Memorial Day weekend
- Texas will test all residents, staff of state supported living centers for COVID-19
- Gov. Abbott terminates all air travel restrictions related to COVID-19