Coronavirus: Texas Orders East Coast Visitors To Self-Quarantine

Tony Cantu

This article originally appeared on the Austin Patch

AUSTIN, TX — People flying in from the New York area to Texas will be mandated to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival to avert potential new coronavirus spread, Gov. Greg Abbott announced in a new executive order issued on Thursday.

The governor announced the move at a Thursday afternoon press conference from the state Capitol. The order includes visitors from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the governor said. Given the high concentration of illness in New Orleans, travelers from Louisiana also will be subject to the order, he added.

"The New York tri-state area is the center of the epidemic in the U.S.," Abbott said in explaining the measure, calling the East Coast region a potential "seeding point" threatening other areas of the U.S. Given the increasing levels of respiratory ailment emanating from New York — which now exceeds that of China where the pandemic originated — Abbott said people traveling from the New York area will be subject to the mandatory self-quarantine order for 14 days or the duration of their stay, whichever is shorter.

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Abbott said the self-quarantine order would be enforced by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers. Those ordered to self-quarantine will not be allowed visitors except for medical personnel, he said. Failure to comply with the order is punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or 180 days in jail, the governor added. The order only applies to those traveling by air, he said, as opposed to those arriving by car.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday ordered implemented a measure dubbed PAUSE, an acronym for "Policy that Assures Uniform Safety for Everyone," calling for a shelter-in-place until April 19 to avert further illness spread of new coronavirus, a respiratory ailment now known as COVID-19. In tandem, the order further compels those living in sectors of greatest concentration to self-quarantine for two weeks in an effort to mitigate the spread of illness.

Hours after the order was issued, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott noted at the Austin City Council meeting that trailers had been set up outside New York hospitals to serve as makeshift morgues the same day of the Texas order.

In calling for the safeguard, Abbott cited the latest Texas statistics as it relates to COVID-19 illness count: A total of 1,424 positive COVID-19 coronavirus cases in the state, with 18 deaths and 100 hospitalizations. To be sure, the rate of illness in New York is exponentially greater than it is in Texas, according to the latest available figures.

On a related front, Abbott updated on the higher level of monitoring for the ailment across the state given recently delivered testing kits. Last Friday, Abbott predicted testing would grow to 15,000 per week, and "...the good news is that we're on course to exceed what I prognosticated," he said.

But the state is hardly out of the woods, he inferred, ticking off some grim stats: Compared to last week's death count due to COVID-19 at five, there now have been 18 deaths reported statewide. And as of last Friday, 39 counties reported incidences of the virus compared to 90 counties now, the governor said.

"Our goal in this whole testing process is to test as many people as possible to see those numbers grow and see a leveling off of those cases in Texas," Abbott said. "Those who test positive will continue to increase, but just as importantly as we continue in the State of Texas to distance ourselves from others, the level of those infected will have leveled off."

He attributed the enhanced testing to the greater availability of drive-through testing sites and others providing ease of access. The governor said he expects more such facilities to open up in the coming days.

Abbott cited some of his previously issued executive orders in having ushered in a greater availability of hospital beds across the state. In Dallas, for example, 1,700 additional beds are now available expressly for COVID-19 patients, and 2,300 in the entire Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

"That said," Abbott intoned, "our job is not to deal with the situation as we are, but continue looking forward to scenarios where we might be."

On a more hopeful note, Abbott praised Texas residents for having largely adhered to guidelines related to social distancing. "I'm extremely proud of how people across the state are helping out," he said. All of us have a collective responsibility to live up to the national standard to reduce the level of COVID-19."

He also praised first responders coping with illness outbreak: "We are incredibly grateful to our medical personnel who are on the front lines of this war in the spread of this disease."

On a final note, he urged those wishing to sell or donate supplies or who want to volunteer their medical services to visit www.texas.gov/covid19.


From March 25:


AUSTIN, TX — The governor is scheduled on Thursday to provide an update on the state's efforts to combat the growing spread of new coronavirus, officials said.

The update is scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 26, at the state Capitol. Gov. Greg Abbott will be joined by Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd.

The briefing comes one day after Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration for the state, easing access for federal aid if needed. The federal move comes in the wake of a similar declaration by the governor in an effort to seek federal assistance if needed.

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“Texas is aggressively pursuing and implementing all necessary strategies to limit the impact of COVID-19, and I thank President Trump for his swift action to issue a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Texas,” Abbott said in a prepared statement issued Wednesday. “The President’s declaration opens up new sources of funding for individual and public assistance that will help Texas respond to this public health emergency and protect public health and safety.”

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Given the practice of social distancing to help mitigate the spread of illness, reporters are barred from attending en masse. Instead, a single media representative, Spectrum News-Austin, will provide live coverage of the press briefing in what's known as pool coverage. Print coverage will be provided by a Houston Chronicle reporter and still photography will be provided by the Austin American-Statesman.

Once referred to as new coronavirus, COVID-19 is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have triggered outbreaks in the past

The governor's latest update comes after positive tests for the respiratory ailment jumped to 119 from 98 the previous day, as reported by Austin Public Health. Statewide, 974 positive cases have been confirmed, according to Texas Department of State Health Services. As of Wednesday, 12 people had died from the ailment.