Eleanor Dearman, El Paso Times
Published 11:12 a.m. MT April 8, 2020 | Updated 4:30 p.m. MT April 8, 2020
AUSTIN —More data is needed before one of the state's top health officials is ready to say when COIVD-19 will peak in Texas.
"I don't think anybody wants us to act irrationally or prematurely and have a resurgence in cases, only to have to reapply, if you will, more stringent standards," Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt said.
The remarks came at a Wednesday news conference, where Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders gave an update on the coronavirus in Texas, as the number of cases continues to climb. The acceleration in the virus' spread has seemingly slowed as of late, Hellerstedt said.
More: Gov. Greg Abbott confident Texas has the hospital beds to face challenge of coronavirus
There are more than 9,100 people who have tested positive for the virus in the state and there have been 175 fatalities; 161 of the state's 245 counties have confirmed COVID-19 cases. More than 1,400 Texans with the virus are hospitalized, Abbott said.
More than 96,200 Texans have been tested for the virus, Abbott said at the news conference held at the Texas Capitol.
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In mid-March, it took about three days for the number of cases to double, said John Zerwas, a former state representative who serves as executive vice chancellor for health affairs of the University of Texas System. Now, it's taking about six days.
"That means that the sacrifices you're making right now to distance yourself from others, to stay at home, they're paying off," Abbott said.
One model done by the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation estimates Texas will hit its peak hospital resource use on April 22 and its peak in number of daily deaths on April 24.
But Texas still isn't testing as many people as some other states.
More: Coronavirus in Texas: PPE arriving in the state and more on the way, Gov. Abbott says
In New York, which has been the epicenter of the virus in the U.S., more than 340,000 tests have been conducted as of Tuesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project. In California, more than 131,000 have been done, and in Florida more than 138,000.
Abbott maintained that the amount of testing being done in the state is adequate for the formation of data models "to make all different types of determinations that are needed."
Some states, such as New York, have tested more than in Texas but the situations in those states have been more deadly, Abbott said.
"Testing is helpful, especially to isolate those who have it, but testing is not a solution," Abbott said. "The solution is one thing, and that is to follow the stay at home orders so that you reduce your chances of contracting COVID-19."
Abbott noted during the news conference that Walgreens will be providing drive-thru testing sites in Texas using tests from Abbott Laboratories that can record positive or negative results in 15 minutes.
Walgreens will open 15 sites in seven states, including Texas, according to a Tuesday news release from the store. Those locations are still being finalized, the release states.
Abbott also announced a partnership with Prestige Ameritech in North Texas to produce masks.
"The State of Texas is continuing to work closely with our public and private partners to ramp up the production and distribution of PPE in Texas," Abbott said in a statement.
Abbott addresses vote by mail
Wednesday's news conference comes one day after Texas Democrats filed a lawsuit requesting any registered voter be able to cast a mail-in ballot in upcoming elections, in light of health risks associated with COVID-19.
Abbott said he had not seen the lawsuit, but emphasized that people have a legal right to vote in person. The lawsuit filed by Texas Democrats does not attempt to halt in-person voting.
"The superior strategy is exactly what I ordered ... and that is to move elections that were scheduled for May to July," Abbott said.
Eleanor Dearman may be reached at 361-244-0047; firstname.lastname@example.org; @EllyDearman on Twitter.
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