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Amid White House Pressure, Second Texas Lockdown Unlikely

hundreds of battery operated tea light candles spread across several platforms at Austin's Long Center, looking out toward the Austin skyline
Michael Minasi
A candlelight vigil in late October honoring the 450 Travis County residents who had died by that time from COVID-19.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants local officials to better enforce restrictions already available to them through the state.

From Texas Standard:

As new cases of coronavirus soar in Texas, the White House Coronavirus Task Force is calling on state officials to do more to stem the spread.

But Madlin Mekelburg, a statehouse and environmental reporter for the Austin American-Statesmen told Texas Standard that despite the recent pressure from the Trump administration, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott isn't planning another statewide shutdown or additional blanket restrictions. Instead, he's putting more pressure on local officials to enforce the restrictions already in place.

Mekelburg says local officials are adopting those rules in different ways – some not at all. Austin, for example is choosing to enforce some of the strictest COVID-19 regulations allowed by the state. Meanwhile, in Midland where hospitalizations are surging, local officials have decided to go against a state mandate that kicks in when hospitals surpass a certain number of COVID-19 patients.

The percentage of hospitalizations is something Abbott watches closely. If an area's hospitals have more than 15% of patients with COVID-19 for more than seven consecutive days, like in Midland, local officials are supposed to apply additional state rules.

"There's reduced capacity at restaurants; any bars that were allowed to open have to close," Mekelburg said.

Abbott has yet to comment on the recommendations from the White House, which came after months of Texas following the Trump administration's own strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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