SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL) – Six days after implementing a mask mandate in the state of Texas, Governor Greg Abbott says the state is implementing other measures to identify where COVID-19 is spreading.
Talking with NBC 6 News from Austin on Wednesday, Gov. Abbott said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will provide free COVID-19 testing in Edinburg, Texas, in an effort to test as many people as possible as part of the federal government’s surge testing efforts.
Edinburg, which sits in Rio Grande Valley region, has been identified along with Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Jacksonville, Florida as an area with significant COVID-19 transmission.
The establishment of the surge testing in the smaller Texas town showcases the fact that COVID-19 is a statewide epidemic now, not simply metropolitan areas experiencing hot spots. Gov. Abbott says convincing Texans of this fact has been difficult.
“Candidly it’s my biggest challenge,” said Abbott. “Because the fact of the matter is COVID has not gone away and it is not going to go away until we have medications able to treat it. And what we are seeing is this massive spike in the spread of COVID across the entire state of Texas. There are no communities that are immune to this.”
The governor says his executive order six days ago requiring bars in the state to shutter once again will have an impact on the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate, which according to the Texas Department of State Health Services sits at 13.5%. The governor says it will limit transmission among younger people.
“[Bars] were areas of transmission, especially for people under the age of 35,” said Abbott.
According to the CDC, only Arizona and Florida currently have higher positivity rates. On Tuesday, Texas reported more than 10,000 additional positive COVID-19 cases.