Gov. Abbott may take new action Thursday to limit public gatherings statewide in Texas

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TARRANT COUNTY, Texas (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott announced he may take new action Thursday that would limit public gatherings across Texas because of the growing COVID-19 outbreak.

The governor shared his intent to take further action during a news conference Wednesday in Tarrant County, where the second death related to COVID-19 was reported earlier this week. He asked every elected official in the state to contact his office by the end of the day so that he could get their feedback on possibly closing all bars and restaurants statewide.

“I’m telling every locally elected official in the state of Texas today we need to hear from you today about your needs, your strategy your thoughts and your input that will shape what I announce tomorrow,” Abbott said.

Abbott said local leaders have handled the outbreak “quite well,” but hinted he may take action at the state level.

“It is clear this spread is occurring across the entire state of Texas,” Abbott said.

“We’re dealing with something, however, that is not just statewide in scope, not just nationwide, but worldwide in scope,” Abbott explained.

The local bans on public gatherings and dine-in restaurant operations spells bad news for restaurant owners like Freda Cheng. She has owned her North Austin restaurant that bears her name for 18 years.

“We’re usually pretty full at lunch and dinner, now we have nobody here,” she said. She defines her cuisine as fine dining, designed to dine-in, not take to-go.

“A lot of my regulars, they call me, they’ve been texting me, they try to cheer me up,” she said. “They say they want to come in to eat at my restaurant. I say, you cannot come in but you can get to-go.”

Cheng laid of nearly all of her 60 employees this week.

“Everybody out of a job,” she said.

She hopes her business has the strength to survive these uncertain times.

“It’s tough, but we are going to make it through, we are strong,” Cheng said.

Texas identifies third COVID-19 death

Gov. Abbott identified the man who died from COVID-19 in Tarrant County as Patrick James. James lived with his wife at the Texas Masonic Retirement Center in Arlington. He had underlying health issues and was hospitalized on March 12, according to the governor. He died on March 16, and positive test results for COVID-19 came back on March 17.

The governor said James had no recent travel or other contacts with anyone who had COVID-19, so his case is being investigated as possible community spread. Epidemiologists are now investigating what contacts he had at the retirement home in Arlington. The Texas Masonic Retirement Center posted online that it’s now closed to all visitors.

Shortly before the news conference Wednesday, Collin County announced that a 64-year-old Plano man who died in a local hospital Tuesday from an underlying medical condition was infected with COVID-19. His death marks the third related to the virus in the state.

The governor was joined at his Wednesday news conference with Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd.

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