Texas governor urges residents to stay home amid record number of new coronavirus cases

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is imploring residents to stay home as the state grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations stemming from the disease. 

In an interview Tuesday with local CBS affiliate KBTX-TV, Abbott said Texas would report more than 5,000 cases of COVID-19 from the previous 24-hour period, marking a new high in the state. He added that hospitalizations were also at an all-time high, stressing that the outbreak is "serious."

"First, we want to make sure that everyone reinforces the best safe practices of wearing a mask, hand sanitization, maintaining safe distance, but importantly, because the spread is so rampant right now, there’s never a reason for you to have to leave your home," Abbott said. "Unless you do need to go out, the safest place for you is at your home."

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Abbott noted that more announcements regarding the state's efforts to combat the spread of the disease would come later in the week. He said that the state has increased testing and response supplies in areas being hit especially hard by outbreaks. He also said that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has expanded enforcement efforts to ensure businesses are complying with health restrictions. 

But the governor said during a press conference on Monday that he would not reimpose any restrictions on businesses and other activities. While admitting that the increase in cases was "unacceptable," he said that the state would remain "open for business." 

"We don’t have to choose between jobs and health. We can have both. We can protect Texan lives while also restoring livelihoods. ... Together, we will keep Texas wide open for business," he said, urging Texans to wear masks, wash their hands and maintain social distancing.

The governor stopped short of announcing any new restrictions to curb the spread of the disease. 

"Closing down Texas again will always be the last option," Abbott said.

Texas was one of the first states to begin a gradual reopening in late April. The state is now on the third phase of that reopening, which allows businesses, including bars, gyms and office buildings, to operate at 50 percent capacity. Some businesses have also been permitted to operate at 100 percent capacity, and few restrictions are in place for most outdoor areas. 

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As of Tuesday, state health officials had reported more than 120,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 2,200 deaths caused by it. The Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement Monday that "hospitalizations are rising at their fastest rate yet." 

Abbott told KBTX-TV that the "first obligation we have is to make sure people around the state really comprehend the magnitude of the challenge we’re dealing with."

"There remain a lot of people in the state of Texas who think that the spread of COVID-19 is really not a challenge," he said.