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Governor says "closing down Texas again will always be the last option" as coronavirus cases surge

Texas governor coronavirus briefing
Abbott: "COVID-19 is spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas and it must be corralled" 04:45

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday outlined guidance for state residents to combat the recent surge in coronavirus cases "without having to return to stay-at-home policies." Abbott said that "closing down Texas again will always be the last option," but added that if the spike continues, "further action will be necessary."

At the end of May, Texas averaged about 1,500 positive cases a day. In the past five days in June, the average has been more than 3,500 a day. There were 3,280 new cases reported on Monday, which is a decrease from Saturday's high of 4,430, according to the Texas Department of Public Health.

Additionally, Abbott said the positivity rate has gone from about 4.5% in late May to over 9% now. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 averaged around 1,600 a day at the end of May — and in the last five days, hospitalizations have averaged more than 3,200 a day.

"To state the obvious, COVID-19 is spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas and it must be corralled," Abbott said.

Abbott recommended that Texans stay home, sanitize their hands and maintain social distancing. He also said authorities are stepping up patrols of places not in compliance with social distancing regulations. The Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission, for example, is shutting down bars that are overcrowded.

Abbott also said the state is increasing testing in areas that are believed to be hotspots and is working with hospitals to ensure they have the capacity to deal with the growing demand.

For 11 consecutive days, the number of people hospitalized due to the coronavirus increased to record levels .As of Monday, there are 3,711 people hospitalized for the coronavirus.  Abbott insisted Monday that "hospitals have abundant capacity to treat COVID-19."

Abbott encouraged all Texans to wear masks. Although Abbott on June 3 banned local governments from making mask-wearing mandatory, several large counties last week put their own measures in place without opposition from Abbott. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez on Wednesday instituted policies requiring customers and employees in stores to wear masks, and officials in Cameron, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Hays and Travis counties quickly followed with similar measures.

Abbott said Monday he knows "some people feel wearing a mask is inconvenient and an infringement of freedom." But, he said, "I also know that wearing a mask will help keep Texas open."

Texas moved ahead with Phase 3 of its reopening on June 3, with bars allowed to open at 50% capacity and restaurants at 75% capacity. On June 18, Abbott said public school students would return for in-person classes in the fall.

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