Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that "additional measures are going to be necessary" and the state will have to take "tougher actions" if daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to climb at current rates into July.
"The way hospitalizations are spiking, the way that daily new cases are spiking — surely the public can understand that if those spikes continue, additional measures are going to be necessary to make sure we maintain the health and safety of the people of the state of Texas," Abbott responded when asked whether he would consider rolling back some of the state's reopening guidelines.
"If we were to experience another doubling of those numbers over the next month, that would mean we're in an urgent situation where tougher actions will be required to make sure that we do contain the spread of Covid-19," he said.
Abbott has previously defended the state's reopening plan by saying the state's hospitals remain at the lowest threat level and have the ability to add surge capacity if necessary. Texas was one of the first states to quickly reopen its economy, allowing bars, restaurants and gyms to resume operations in early to mid-May.
On June 12, Abbott said there's "no real need to ratchet back the reopening of businesses in the state." One of the reasons, he said, was because of the availability of hospital beds. He also added that he was "concerned, but not alarmed" by the increased number of new daily cases at the time.
The state has since reported days of record hospitalizations and daily increases in reported Covid-19 cases. As of Sunday, there are 2,913 people currently hospitalized in Texas with Covid-19 based on a seven-day moving average, a 37% increase compared with a week ago, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.
The state's seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases has increased more than 86% compared with a week ago, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
"All the way through the early part of May, Texas was moving in a very productive position," Abbott said. "And then around the time of Memorial Day there was an increase, and that increase has maintained for several weeks now, necessitating that next steps be taken."
Abbott has previously pointed to increased testing in nursing homes, correctional facilities as well as some reporting delays in some counties as reasons behind jumps in daily case numbers.
On Monday, Abbott said the state would work with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to further ramp up testing in places that might be considered hot spots.
Abbott, who has been criticized by local leaders for not issuing a statewide mandate requiring people to wear masks while in public, urged residents Monday to cover their faces to prevent the spread of Covid-19, even if they felt like it would be an "infringement of freedom."
He said that each of the state's counties should have the flexibility to implement their own requirements depending on the level of spread in the area.
"Wearing a mask will help us to keep Texas open, because not taking action to slow the spread will cause Covid to spread even worse, risking people's lives and ultimately leading to the closure of more businesses," Abbott said.