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Published online on May 27, 2020

Bonnen talks about COVID-19 in Texas; recommends wearing a mask in public

By Stephanie Johnson / The Bulletin

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) is confused by the controversy over wearing face masks, particularly if it helps the economy to rebound.

He doesn’t understand why people are against it.

“If you wear a face covering, you reduce the transmission by over 90%. Some people want the economy open, but don’t want to wear face masks.” 

Bonnen said he will wear a face covering all day long if that helps open the economy.

He made his statements during an Angleton Chamber of Commerce virtual luncheon on May 27.

“We want business pushed forward, and if we follow the rules, we could be back to a normal operation of life sooner than later. You aren’t making a statement by going against wearing a facemask. We are going to have to live and work around this virus for the next several months, and we are fortunate that we found ways to do that,” he said.

Bonnen went over the current COVID-19 situation and noted that Texas is performing the best of the larger states. Texas is currently testing 25,000 people a day, which ranks in the top five in the nation for conducting tests. 

Texas has the lowest death rate of any of the larger states, currently at 5 deaths per 100,000. He said while we don’t want any deaths, we are performing at half of what California and Florida are seeing. Texas also currently has one of the lowest infection rates in the nation, 195 per every 100,000, he said.

One of the most important statistics is the seven-day average of positive test rates and hospital occupancy, he said. Our current seven-day average is 4.8%. A  month ago it was almost 15%. Anything above 10% is when medical professionals would start recommending the reinstatement of a lockdown. 

The worst outbreaks in Texas have been nursing homes, prisons, and meat-packing plants. Every single one of these hot spots is being tested in Texas. Nursing homes are one of the most difficult environments to manage a virus, Bonnen said.

Amarillo was not moved to Phase 2 of the state’s plan to re-open businesses due to an outbreak at a meat-packing plant. Because of that, the re-opening of the city was delayed by two weeks.

The reason the re-opening of El Paso was postponed was because the hospitalization rate was too high.

 Instead of doing a one-size-fits-all plan, making decisions based on statistics of counties and cities was the way that the rest of the state could reopen safely while these cities were delayed, Bonnen stressed.

Most of Brazoria County’s cases come from the northern part of the county, he said. The county has the 12th highest number of cases in the state. Since last week, there has been a 50% decrease in positive cases. There have been 12 deaths in the county related to COVID-19, which ranks 26th in the state. 

The state prison system transferred 128 sick inmates into Brazoria County so the prisoners could be closer to UTMB, and Bonnen said he didn’t want another positive inmate transferred to this county again. “When we get through this, it’s imperative that the county and the state build a relationship with UTMB. We have to make sure we don’t become the dumping grounds in our community.”

The Texas Workforce Commission is receiving a lot of negative feedback for not processing unemployment claims fast enough, but Bonnen said that since March 14, the agency has processed over 2.65 million claims, which doesn’t usually happen in a year normally. In Brazoria County, 19,483 residents have claimed unemployment since March 7. The Commission has hired emergency workers, third-party call centers and created new servers. Bonnen added the agency has done a lot to stay on top of the situation and respond as quickly as possible.

(You can reach Stephanie at stephanie.bulletin@gmail.com. Or by writing to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)