AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledges that coronavirus cases will undoubtedly increase as a result of reopening the state but added that he did not consider it a "decisive" factor in making his determination to proceed.
That's according to an audio recording published Tuesday by two political news websites. Both reported it was leaked from a private call Abbott had recently with a group of state lawmakers. (You can listen to it in the audio player at the top of this article.)
On the recording, Abbott admits that the spread of the virus will increase as his reopening plan continues to be implemented.
“Listen, the fact of the matter is pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that when you have a reopening... it actually will lead to an increase and spread," he can be heard saying on the call obtained by the Quorum Report and the Daily Beast.
Abbott also added, "just because there may be an increase in the number of people that test positive, that alone is not a decisive criteria.”
The validity of the tape seemed not to be in question, as the Daily Beast quoted Abbott spokesman John Wittman as confirming its authenticity.
Wittman sought to downplay what the Quorum Report noted were inconsistencies between the governor's public remarks and some of the comments made on the private call.
At past news conferences and in interviews, Abbott has said that while reopening “could” cause a rise in Covid-19 cases, such increases are and will continue to mostly be the result of increased testing.
However in the call, the governor indicated the data shows reopening - in and of itself - "will" drive increases in virus outbreaks.
At his latest news conference on Tuesday, Abbott said as Texas continues reopening, surge teams could be dispatched to jump on any new hot spots. “If infections were to get out of control, we will be able to quickly respond to it,” he told reporters.
Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, a public health researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he is particularly concerned about Texas, because cases have been rising steadily and the potential for explosions seems high.
While it is true that testing for the virus has been expanded, and that has probably contributed to the increasing rate of confirmed infections, it doesn’t explain the entire increase, the doctor said.