Governor defends testing levels as Texas begins reopening

By PAUL J. WEBER Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday renewed his defense of coronavirus monitoring in Texas, which throughout the crisis has ranked near the bottom in the U.S. in testing, as he accelerates toward relaxing social restrictions before the end of April.

Next Monday, Abbott is planning to issue new statewide orders that will further loosen Texas’ lockdown beyond the reopening of state parks and letting retailers sell items curbside, which take effect this week. Saying hospitals aren’t overwhelmed and pointing to a decline in fatalities in recent days, Abbott said the numbers are trending well as Texas marches toward reopening.

But Texas has also lagged nationally when it comes to testing and ranks near the bottom per capita, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data collected by The COVID Tracking Project. The low numbers have raised concerns, including in big cities such as Houston, as conservatives in Texas and supporters of President Donald Trump amplify calls to get the country back to work.

Abbott said his team of medical experts are outlining a strategy that calls for an increase of up to 25,000 to 30,000 tests daily to monitor COVID-19, done with more testing supplies that he says are in the pipeline.

“Bottom line is, according to information provided to me by the assessment provided by the advisors in the White House, they believe that Texas is going to have all the testing capability that we need,” Abbott said at a briefing at the Texas Capitol.

Texas has more than 20,000 coronavirus cases and more than 500 deaths, according to state health figures.

But even as Abbott plans relaxing more restrictions come Monday, leaders in Dallas are extending restrictions into May. Health officials have also warned that easing up on restrictions too soon could result in a new wave of cases.

Dallas County commissioners voted Tuesday to extend stay-at-home orders through May 15, which is two weeks beyond statewide orders that are set to expire April 30. Abbott made clear that his forthcoming orders designed to reopen Texas would overrule and local mandates.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said it would be up to Abbott’s office to decide whether there is a conflict, The Dallas Morning News reported.

“If I’m wrong, he will quickly tell us and tell us that we have to let everybody play pick-up basketball and do whatever they want to on April 30,” Jenkins said

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