Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.
Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a closure of Texas schools and dine-in services at restaurants and bars due to COVID-19 concerns, effective Friday at midnight. The order will continue until April 3, Abbott said.
Drive-thru pickup orders and deliveries by restaurants are still allowed, Abbott said. Abbott waived restrictions preventing restaurants from delivering alcoholic beverages Wednesday night, allowing drinks to be ordered for delivery alongside food items.
“We want to emphasize that one thing important for all Texans to be able to access right now, obviously, is food,” Abbott said. “Many Texans are having challenges getting food at grocery stores. Always remember the availability of getting access (to) your food at restaurants.”
Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, also declared a public health disaster for the entire state. Abbott said this is the first time a public health declaration has been made in Texas since 1901.
Abbott also ordered schools, gyms and food courts to close. He also limited nursing homes and retirement center visitations to allow only those who provide critical assistance.
“All schools in the state of Texas shall be temporarily closed,” Abbott said. “Government entities and businesses will continue providing essential services … but should only ask for essential employees to report to the place of work and where feasible, allow and encourage employees to work from home or other remote sites.”
Texas has confirmed 144 cases, according to The New York Times. Abbott said confirmed cases have grown by more than 300% since his state disaster declaration on Friday.
“There is now sound evidence that community-based spread of COVID-19 has begun in Texas,” Hellerstedt said. “COVID-19 is the greatest public health challenge in living memory. … We must change the course of COVID-19 before it impacts our state with maximum effect.”
To comply with Centers for Disease Control and White House recommendations, Abbott has prohibited social gatherings of over 10 people. Abbott said his order does not prohibit Texans from visiting grocery stores, gas stations, parks and banks.
“The more that people do to reduce their public contact, the sooner the COVID-19 disease will be contained, and the sooner this executive order will expire,” Abbott said. “No one responds to challenges better than Texas. So, let's muster a traditional Texas spirit and, together, defeat COVID-19.”