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Gov. Greg Abbott shows off his reopening plan during a recent press conference.
During a Tuesday news conference, Gov. Greg Abbott worked to assure Texans the coronavirus pandemic won't overwhelm the state's medical system — even as it set a new record high in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Fewer Texans test positive for COVID-19 than residents of any other large U.S. state, Abbott said during his remarks, adding that the Texas also has one of the lowest death rates.
"We are here today to let Texans know about the abundant hospital capacity that exists to treat Texans who may test positive for COVID-19," said Abbott, a Republican.
The presser came as the state's Health and Human Services Department reported that
2,518 people are currently hospitalized due to confirmed infections — a fifth consecutive day of increases. That number stood at 2,008 on Thursday.
What's more, 2,622 Texans tested positive on Tuesday for the coronavirus, Abbott said, setting another another new record for the state.
Critics have called out Abbott for forging ahead with one of the most aggressive reopening schedules of any U.S. state and not allowing enough time to assess whether new infections would result. On June 3, he cleared restaurants to operate at 75% capacity and most other businesses to run at 50%.
During Tuesday's presser, Abbott appeared to double down on his earlier claim
that careless 20-somethings were to blame for the recent spike in cases. He said health officials have documented counties "where a majority of the people who are testing positive in that county are under the age of 30."
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission could temporarily suspend the licenses of bars and restaurants that fail to follow COVID-19 guidelines and exacerbate the problem, the governor added.
The promise to get tough on bars was an uncharacteristic pledge of hands-on action. Abbott declined to require people to wear masks in public when he ended a statewide stay-at-home order, and Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has threatened to sue cities that mandate face coverings.
Nine Texan mayors, including San Antonio's Ron Nirenberg, sent a letter to Abbott Tuesday asking for the authority to fine people for not wearing masks.
"While it's important to get our economy working again, we must also take precautions to avoid a massive influx of new cases overwhelming our hospitals," the mayors wrote.
In a written statement responding to Abbott's press briefing, Texas Democratic Party spokesman Abhi Rahman said the record hospitalizations are testament to the governor's "weak and reckless leadership."
“While other states continue to see their cases fall, cases in Texas continue to increase," Rahman said. "This is because of Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s mismanagement. He could have listened to scientists and doctors and opened in a calm and safe manner. Instead, he rushed and botched his reopening, putting millions of Texans at risk."
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