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Health professionals tell Governor Abbott it’s time to shut down, start over and do it right

With COVID-19 still raging in Texas, experts ask the governor to prioritize public health
For Immediate Release

Austin -- TexPIRG is calling on Governor Greg Abbott to hit the reset button on the state’s response to containing the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as it continues to rage throughout the state. More than 1,300 health professionals nationwide, including more than fifty from Texas, have now signed an open letter to Governor Abbot and other decision makers urging them to shut down, start over, and do it right this time to contain COVID-19 and save lives.

“It’s too late for the more than 10,000 Texans who have already lost their lives, but not for thousands more if we take action now,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG state director. “We reopened too quickly without hitting key benchmarks, and now we’re facing the consequences. Half measures aren’t cutting it, let’s shut down, start over, and do it right this time.”

The letter urges Governor Abbott to close non-essential businesses, limit restaurant service to take-out or delivery, and enforce the statewide mask mandate. People should stay home, going out only to get food and medicine or to exercise and get fresh air. 

TexPIRG analyzed what went wrong with the first shutdown, noting that the state never reached key public health benchmarks before reopening. Restrictions should stay in place until the positivity rate, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive, is at 3 percent or lower on average statewide, and the rate of new daily cases is less than 1 per 100,000 people in the population. That’s what health experts set as the criteria for effectively suppressing the virus, and right now Texas is well above the benchmarks. 

Even still, once the state hits those key benchmarks, Gov Abbott should not start reopening again unless the state meets the following criteria laid out by health experts:

  • Enough daily testing capacity to test everyone with flu-like symptoms plus anyone they have been in close contact with over the last two weeks (at least 10 additional tests per symptomatic person). Texas has about a quarter of the testing capacity it needs.

  • A workforce of contact tracers large enough to trace all current cases. 

  • Enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep essential workers such as health professionals, emergency responders and grocery store clerks safe.

Federal support is key to helping states reach these benchmarks, and so far it’s been sorely lacking. That’s why TexPIRG is also urging the Trump Administration and Congress to provide a national strategy and resources for ramping up testing infrastructure around the country and ensuring that all essential workers get adequate PPE. 

“Telling the hard truths and making the hard calls now will save more lives later. That’s why we’re calling on our leaders to rise up to the challenge. Half measures will only lead to more suffering,” finished Scoggin.

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