AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has imposed quarantines on travelers from the New York City area, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., and put similar restrictions on people arriving from nearby New Orleans as the number of cases there surges dramatically.
Abbott ordered the moves Thursday as Texas surpassed 1,400 cases of the virus, and 18 related deaths. He also said 100 Texas patients were hospitalized, which he noted represents less than 10% of all those who have tested positive.
The governor also indicated that the state had added about 3,000 hospital beds in recent days in preparation for the worst ahead.
"We don't want to be in a situation like New York is right now," Abbott said at an afternoon news conference at the Texas Capitol in Austin where he announced the executive order on travel.
On Thursday, New York City officials reported 21,873 infections, 281 deaths and at least 3,900 hospitalized. New Orleans is also becoming a major center of virus worries, as the number of cases Thursday surpassed 2,300 and deaths climbed to 86.
Abbott's executive order only applies to people coming from airports in the New York area and New Orleans, not by roadways.
Asked about the new Texas order, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said, “I can’t say that that is inappropriate.”
Those who don’t comply with the quarantine risk jail time of up to 180 days and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Abbott said state troopers would conduct visits to make sure quarantined people were staying put.
Abbott said Thursday that the state was “on a very good trajectory” with testing, noting that the 21,424 total tests are up from 2,335 six days ago. That is consistent with Abbott’s previous statements saying Texas should reach the capacity to test 15,000 to 20,000 people per week.
Abbott’s efforts to contain the outbreak at the state level come as President Donald Trump continues to express hope the country’s economy can reopen by Easter, which is April 12. Asked about that timeline Thursday, Abbott said he knows there is an “urgent desire” to get back to normal but that "everyone understands that we will all be working off of the best advice of medical professionals about the safest way to proceed.”
“The greatest probable pathway is it won’t be all at one time,” Abbott said. "Maybe we can allow certain workers to go back to work and other workers to go back to work and measure/monitor the health status along the way, but’s way too early to tell right now."
Coronavirus cases have been reported across 92 of Texas' 254 counties, according to the latest figures from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The recent uptick of cases in Texas appeared to be spreading through jails. Dallas County officials said five inmates had tested positive, and in Houston, a positive test came back for someone under the age of 16 at the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center.