"There is no shutdown coming:" Gov. Abbott responds to rumors

Rumors began circulating about whether Gov. Greg Abbott would issue new lockdown orders after COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surged across Texas and the Houston area.

But the governor told FOX 26 on Thursday, "there is no shutdown coming."

He says the widespread use of masks should be able to slow the spread of the coronavirus and reduce record-high case numbers.

Two weeks after Abbott ordered most of the state's 30 million residents to wear masks, Texas is still scrambling to contain one of the biggest coronavirus surges in the U.S. On Wednesday, Texas again set a new high with nearly 10,800 new cases, along with a record 110 deaths.

THE LATEST: Number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and recoveries in greater Houston area

Abbott spoke one-on-one Thursday evening with FOX 26. Below are the questions and answers:

Question: Where do you stand on a shutdown?

Abbott: You it seems like I get this question a thousand times a day. There seems to be looming rumors about a shut down. Let me tell you, there is no shut down coming. And let me tell you two reasons why. One is because I have now put into place a statewide requirement that everyone wear a face mask. This is the best standard as articulated this week by the head of the CDC, saying that we will be able to contain COVID-19 if everyone will simply adopt this practice that is now in place across the entire state of Texas.

The second thing is this. It was just a few weeks ago that I ordered the closure of bars. And my point is this, it takes about three weeks or so to see the results of what's been put in place. And if you look at what the numbers are in Harris County, for example, you've seen pretty much a flattening over the past week or so of the number of cases, as well as the number of hospitalizations. We are certainly not out of the woods yet but this could be a glimmer of hope coming if people will continue the practice of wearing face masks wherever possible. The only way we can avoid a shut down is if we do get everyone buying into the process of wearing a face mask.

Question: You say "avoid a shutdown" as if that possibility still lingers. So what would be that turning point as the numbers continue to move up?

There is no one single number. What I can tell you is this, if you look at hospitalizations it looks like they're beginning to get contained in Harris County. There are a couple of other regions in the state where they're a little bit more troublesome. As long as we're able to maintain adequate hospital supplies. As long as we're able to see a leveling off of the number of people who are testing positive, that means that we have begun the process of containing the spread of COVID-19. If all those numbers spike once again, we will need to find additional measures to take. And remember this, that is the last step that would ever be taken is to lock Texans back down. There are other measures that could possibly be taken before that.


What would the measures be like?

Some that were actually offered up by the mayor of Houston and requested the shutdown of what I think were categorized as cigar bars or gentlemen's clubs and things like that. And I actually spoke with him about it and said when I shut down bars, I had evidence showing that there had been spread of COVID-19 in bar settings, but I had no evidence about a spread in the types of the locations that the mayor was talking about.

I said if you can provide me evidence from your public health authority that spread is taking place there, that could be a type of location that could be shut down. Our goal is this, it's not to shut down everybody, but if there are certain areas that are leading to the spread of the coronavirus, those need to be contained.

The state health department just removed nearly 4,000 COVID-19 cases or positive tests from Bexar County's tally, saying that the cases were not confirmed that they were suspected or probable. How are people supposed to trust the numbers and there is also questions about what that number means. Is it positive tests or positive cases?

So what happened in Bexar County for a short period of time, there were some antigen cases of people testing positive. That is a blood-based test that were added to the COVID-based test and mistakenly included the blood-based test into the COVID-based test and they went back and removed those about 4,000. We constantly work to monitor all the tests that come in to make sure that things like that are not happening. As far as we can tell, Bexar County is the only county in the state that did that.