MCALLEN, Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott has warned Texans that another economic lockdown is on the cards, if they do not stick rigidly to his social distancing and facial covering orders. 

Abbott took to the airwaves at the Lone Star State reached record levels for COVID-19 cases and deaths. He said things are about to get worse.

“Things will get worse, and let me explain why,” Abbott said, in an appearance on KLBK-TV in Lubbock. “The deaths that we’re seeing announced today and yesterday — which are now over 100 — those are people who likely contracted COVID-19 in late May.”

Abbott added: “The worst is yet to come as we work our way through that massive increase in people testing positive.”

Asked about the mandate he signed last week requiring Texans to wear face masks in public places, Abbott told KLBK: “The public needs to understand this was a very tough decision for me to make. I made clear that I made this tough decision for one reason: It was our last best effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. If we do not slow the spread of COVID-19 … the next step would have to be a lockdown.”

In an interview on KSAT of San Antonio, Abbott said: “If we can get people across the state … to wear face masks, we will be able to keep the state open. We will be able to reduce hospitalizations. But if this is not encouraged, if people do not adopt the best practice of wearing a face covering, it will lead to an increase in this rapid spread of COVID-19.”

Texas reported 105 deaths on Thursday, a 24-hour record for the state. Abbott told KRIV-TV that does not anticipate next week will bring any relief.

“I think the numbers are going to look worse as we go into next week, and we need to make sure that there’s going to be plenty of hospital beds available in the Houston area,” Abbott said.

One of the hottest of COVID hotspots is the Rio Grande Valley. Cameron County health officials announced Friday six additional COVID-19 related deaths. The individuals were a 47-year old male from La Feria, a 60-year old male from Primera, a 71-year old male from Rio Hondo, a 73-year old male from Brownsville, and a 75-year old male and 79-year old female from Harlingen. 

This raises the number of COVID-19 related deaths in Cameron County to 77. Cameron County has also received confirmation of an additional 250 case reports of COVID-19. 

Neighboring Hidalgo County had a record 1,274 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, said Eddie Olivarez, the county’s chief administrative officer for health and human services. On the same day, 20 more coronavirus-related deaths were confirmed, bringing the death toll to 123. 

“Several months ago, I wanted of a potential tsunami if we did not take this more seriously,” said Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez. “The tsunami is here.”

On Friday, Hidalgo County health officials announced 19 more residents of the county had died as a result of COVID-19, with an additional 393 more people testing positive for the virus.

Close It Down

U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen and Filemon Vela of Brownsville. (File Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)

The record number of COVID cases and deaths has promoted two Valley congressmen to call for a new shelter-at home order. 

Congressmen Filemon Vela of Brownsville and Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen called on Governor Abbott to issue stay-at-home orders in regions of the state most affected by the overwhelming surge of COVID-19 cases. 

They pointed out that South Texas has been hit particularly hard with a surge in cases. They also noted that  ten of the region’s 12 hospitals in Hidalgo, Cameron and Starr County are at capacity. 

“The health of our economy is tied to the health of our population. As Texans, we want the economy to thrive, but that is not possible if the lives and health of our fellow Texans are at stake,” Vela and Gonzalez said, in a joint statement.

“Clearly, the surge in new COVID-19 cases, resulting in a greater number of deaths, are directly related to Texas’s premature reopening. Our call for action now is all we can do to prevent further deaths. The long-term sustainment of our economy depends on ensuring that Texans are healthy.”

Vela and Gonzalez added: “Governor Abbott needs to issue a mandatory stay-at-home order. If the Governor believes that the numbers for our state are going to be worse next week, we must make every effort to protect our fellow Texans now.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Gov. Greg Abbott at a media briefing where he announced a new executive order requiring the wearing of facial coverings in public places.

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