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Gov. Greg Abbott Speaks On Texas' PPE Supply, School Opening Plans

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks in San Antonio on Aug. 4, 2020.
Lauren Terrazas | Texas Public Radio
Gov. Greg Abbott speaks in a Texas Division of Emergency Management warehouse in San Antonio on Aug. 4, 2020.

Gov. Greg Abbott is setting the record straight as to who has the final say on when schools can reopen this fall. The power will lie in the hands of local school officials, not public health authorities.

School officials will also have the power to decide how they will begin instruction, whether it be completely remote, in-person or a combination of both. Remote learning will be allowed up to eight weeks from a school’s start date and, if necessary, can be extended beyond that time period if schools apply for a waiver from the Texas Education Agency.

But the key for this fall, according to Abbott, will be flexibility.

“There will be the local flexibility so that local school districts will be able to meet the education needs of their students, of their parents and of their teachers, making sure that they will be able to prioritize safety as well as be able to prioritize the advancement of education,” said Abbott.

Abbott’s direction backs the legal opinion issued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on July 28, which prohibits local health authorities from issuing blanket school closures for all schools in their jurisdiction before the academic year.

There's a stockpile of Personal Protective Equipment in the Texas Department of Emergency Management warehouse.
Credit Lauren Terrazas | Texas Public Radio
A stockpile of Personal Protective Equipment in the Texas Division of Emergency Management warehouse. The San Antonio facility is one of 40 across the state — and the largest — storing PPE for statewide distribution.

The governor delivered his remarks while visiting a Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) warehouse in San Antonio Tuesday to take stock of the state’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply.

More than $1 billion worth of PPE has already been ordered for the State of Texas, according to TDEM chief, Nim Kidd. Just over $600 million has been received and TDEM expects an additional $400 million to be delivered within the next 60 days.

The warehouse in San Antonio is one of 40 across the state — and the largest — stocked with PPE and statewide distribution has already begun.

Chief Kidd said materials that have already been distributed to school districts include more than 59 million masks, over 24,000 thermometers, more than 565,000 gallons of hand sanitizer and more than 500,000 face shields.

Texas’ PPE stockpile is being processed, organized and distributed with help from National Guard troops who were deployed to the state to help combat the virus. Last night, President Donald Trump reauthorized and extended federal funding for the National Guard to continue aiding the state in its efforts to combat the coronavirus.

The collection and disbursement of PPE will be especially critical in the coming months, according to Gov. Abbott, as schools prepare to reopen and the regular flu season approaches.

After speaking in San Antonio, the governor headed to McAllen, Texas. That’s where a convention center-turned hospital is now open to battle a surge of COVID-19 cases.

The McAllen Convention Center will not be used to care for those most ill, but rather for those expected to recover. It can treat up to 250 patients if necessary.

State officials say 7,000 personnel from across the state were used to rapidly convert the convention center into a medical facility to relieve Valley hospitals.

Brian Kirkpatrick contributed to this story.

Lauren Terrazas can be reached at Lauren@TPR.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren.

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Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren