SAN ANTONIO – The winter storm two weeks ago that caused the catastrophic failure of the power grid in Texas delayed Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement of reversing his statewide pandemic orders.
During an exclusive interview Wednesday on the KSAT 12 6 O’Clock News, Abbott said he had originally planned to make the announcement on Feb. 22 but had to delay it due to the winter storm. Instead, the governor said he had to wait until Tuesday, which triggered criticism from political opponents and residents who said he wanted to divert attention away from the power grid crisis.
Abbott said the storm caused a huge volume of vaccines from being delivered and given to senior citizens, which delayed key health metrics that he said needed to be met so that he could move ahead with his plans.
“We wanted to make sure we had at least 50% of them (senior citizens) got vaccinated before this order went into effect. So, we had to delay from the last Monday of February until the effective date of what we announced simply because of the delay and the arrival of the additional vaccines that we wanted to make sure that would be available that would achieve our goals,” Abbott said.
The governor said the fact that 229,000 Texans got vaccinated Wednesday and the state also recorded its lowest hospitalization and virus positivity rates in four months, is a move in the right direction.
“All the metrics are lining up in a way that shows that Texas is safer than ever before, and most importantly, those who are most likely to face severe consequences from COVID are now largely protected,” he said.
The governor said more than 7 million Texans will soon be vaccinated, and “you’re gonna see that it’s going to be very hard for the disease to be spreading anymore.”
Abbott said that he consulted with Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt and Dr. John Zerwas, executive vice chancellor for health affairs for the UT Health System, before making his decision.
“These are doctors who agree with this decision because of these metrics,” Abbott said.
Abbott said it’s also important to note that Texans have had a year to deal with pandemic and are now educated on how to protect themselves from the virus.
“They don’t need a state mandate to tell them what to do,” said the governor, who added that residents need to keep applying safe practices to prevent the spread of the virus.
Abbott said that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of Texans have contracted the virus and have recovered and have the innate ability to be able to defeat the disease.
Abbott said that, although he’s “extremely confident that we won’t see a resurgence” of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, his order allows an automatic trigger of an immediate reduction in business capacity to 50% in any of the 22 hospital regions in the state that go above 15% of all hospital beds for seven consecutive days.
He added that county judges in the hospital regions also have the authority to implement measures that would help mitigate the spread of the virus if the hospital rate skyrockets.
Watch the exclusive KSAT Q&A with Gov. Greg Abbott below: