ARLINGTON, Texas -- Gov. Greg Abbott said he would make an announcement Thursday about the potential statewide closure of gyms, bars and restaurants to combat the coronavirus, acknowledging that the spread of it in Texas has increased dramatically over the past several days and now caused three deaths.
His remarks came in response to a reporter's question Wednesday at a news conference in Tarrant County, where one of the state's three deaths related to coronavirus was reported this week.
“Yes, I have considered that," Abbott said of a bar and restaurant shutdown, which is something a number of Texas cities have already done. "I will be making an announcement about that tomorrow.”
So far, Abbott has deferred to local governments on how to handle such closures, which has been part of the governor's broader strategy in responding to the pandemic.
"Traditionally, the way disaster response works is that a governor will issue a disaster declaration, and that empowers local jurisdictions," Abbott said at the news conference, where he was joined by local and state officials. "We're dealing with something, however, that is not just statewide in scope, not just nationwide in scope, but is worldwide in scope. I will be providing an announcement tomorrow that addresses all of this."
The third reported Texas death, confirmed Wednesday, was a 64-year-old man in Collin County.
The test came back positive after the man's death. He was already in the hospital for an underlying condition, Collin County Judge Chris Hill said.
The first known novel coronavirus-related death was a man in his late 90s in Matagorda County. The second was a “senior adult” in Tarrant County.
Abbott announced that everyone who lives and works at the Texas Masonic Home, the home where the Tarrant County victim lived, will be tested for the virus by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
There are already at least 166 known cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus discovered in late 2019, in the state — a number that’s expected to exponentially rise in the coming days as testing becomes more readily available.
“It is clear this spread is occurring across the entire state of Texas,” Abbott said.
The governor said that testing is ramping up dramatically, with capacity for 15,000 to 20,000 tests to be administered next week.