“Wearing a mask or facial covering in public is an effective way for Texans to protect themselves and others from the transmission of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a statement. “I continue to urge all Texans to do their part by taking necessary precautions that will reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout our state.”
New COVID-19 infections broke the 5,000 mark Tuesday for the first time, a week after they first surpassed 4,000 in a single day. The state’s testing sites will now hand out sets of four free masks to everyone getting tested.
Hospitalizations have also climbed to record numbers in the Lone Star state.
The recent spike even prompted the country’s largest children’s hospital to begin admitting adult patients in Houston. Texas Children’s Hospital is taking on grownups as the COVID-19 outbreak strains the city’s health care system.
As the outbreak grows, Abbott is encouraging residents to maintain social distancing, wear masks and practice good hygiene, along with following other health guidelines. He has resisted the idea of reinstating business closures that have crippled the economy.
Still, he recently expanded local governments’ control over health-related rules for outdoor gatherings within their jurisdictions — lowering the threshold from 500 to 100 people.
“COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in the state of Texas, and it must be corralled,” he said earlier this week. “We have several strategies to reduce the spread without shutting Texas back down, but it is up to all of us to do our part to protect ourselves and others.”
He stressed that he wants “all Texans” to follow the state’s health guidelines to try and tamp down on the virus’ spread.
“COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, but neither has our ability to slow the spread of it,” he said.
People looking to get tested may need a doctor’s referral, and insurance deductibles and co-pays may still apply, according to state health authorities.
A map of test sites throughout the state can be found here.
Texas has seen more than 125,000 reported cases of the coronavirus, over 2,200 deaths and an estimated more than 72,000 recoveries, according to the state’s health department.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with preexisting conditions, the highly contagious virus can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.