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Texas governor says lack of social distancing is boosting coronavirus cases

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the US Army Corps of Engineers and the state are putting up a 250-bed field hospital at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas during a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Sunday, March 29, 2020.

Tom Fox | Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that the state has seen an increase in coronavirus cases since Memorial Day and a few weeks after most likely due to people who didn’t follow recommended social distancing practices.

“We think we can also accurately say there has been an increase — especially beginning around the Memorial Day time period and going through a few weeks after that — an increase in people testing positive because they may not be practicing all these safe standards,” Abbott said. 

The state reported an additional 2,622 cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, a new daily high, he said. Abbott pointed to an increase in testing in state nursing homes, correctional facilities as well as some reporting delays as reasons behind jumps in daily case numbers.

However, he added that some counties have reported higher positivity rates stemming from people under 30 years old, indicating they may be going to “bar-type settings” or were infected at Memorial Day celebrations, Abbott said. 

Texas bars were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity beginning May 22 and restaurants have been allowed to open at 75% capacity, among other reopened businesses

“Every single individual in Texas has the unique ability and responsibility to make sure they don’t get Covid-19 just by following these safe practices of wearing a mask, washing your hands, keeping your distance,” Abbott said. “You can go about a lot of your normal daily functions if you follow those three standards.”

The number of people in Texas‘ hospitals continues to rise, with coronavirus hospitalizations now up more than 66% since Memorial Day as the state continues to reopen.

There are currently 2,518 patients hospitalized with a coronavirus infection, marking the seventh new high in the state in a little over a week, according to updated data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. That’s also up roughly 66% since Memorial Day when there were 1,511 hospitalized Covid-19 patients, state data shows.

Abbott said that figure remains a small percentage of the state’s total available hospital beds, which currently stands at 14,993, according to a chart presented by Dr. John Zerwas, the executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas. 

While the increased hospital occupancy does raise concerns, Abbott said, he defended the state’s reopening plan and said the state’s hospital capacity remains at “the lowest threat level.” 

“We have plenty of room to expand beds, there are thousands of hospital beds that are available as we speak right now,” Abbott said. 

Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report. 

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