AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Jan. 30 commented on a White House briefing about actions to stem the transmission of novel coronavirus in the United States.
Speakers at the briefing concerning the outbreak of the new respiratory illness that originated in Wuhan, China, included U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
“The State of Texas is continuing to collaborate with our local, state and federal partners as updates come in on the status of the coronavirus,” Abbott said. “Our local communities will have the resources they need to respond to any potential cases of the coronavirus in their area, and we remain committed to ensuring the health and safety of all Texans.”
On Jan. 27, Abbott met with state health and emergency management officials for a briefing on the same topic. “The Lone Star State will remain vigilant to protect the health and safety of all Texans,” Abbott said.
The Texas Department of State Health Services is working with local health departments to assess people with respiratory illness and recent travel to the province of Hubei, China, for possible 2019 novel coronavirus testing.
The DSHS said travelers should monitor themselves for symptoms and contact their health care provider if they develop fever, cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of being in Hubei. The agency urged Texas health care professionals to ask patients with respiratory symptoms about their travel history and contact their local or regional health department if they think a patient may have novel coronavirus. The state had not posted the number of diagnosed cases of the disease in Texas as of Feb. 2.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid exposure to novel coronavirus — precautions which are similar to those the agency recommends to avoid influenza.
Abbott attends signing
Gov. Abbott on Jan. 29 joined President Donald Trump for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement ceremonial bill signing in Washington, D.C.
The agreement, Abbott said, modernizes the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement “and will support mutually beneficial trade leading to freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth in North America.”
It is estimated that the USMCA will have a positive impact of $17.6 billion on Texas’ annual gross product and create 164,700 new jobs in the state, according to December 2019 projections from the Waco-based Perryman Group. The USMCA also allows Texas increased access to trade with Mexico and Canada, the state’s two largest export partners, according to the governor’s office.
Law aids in unsolved cases
The Texas Department of Public Safety on Jan. 30 said law enforcement agencies have identified suspects in more than 45 unsolved cases thanks in part to the implementation of House Bill 1399, the Krystal Jean Baker Act.
The new law, which took effect Sept. 1, 2019, authorizes the collection of DNA samples from individuals charged with certain felonies and compares the samples through the Combined DNA Index System database in an effort to clear unsolved cases.
“By allowing us to collect and enter DNA evidence from offenders in a much quicker time frame, we are able to make a critical connection to previous crimes committed by the same offender. We are aiming to stop these criminals from committing any other violent acts against innocent people,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw.
According to the DPS, Baker was 13 years old when she was abducted, sexually assaulted and killed in 1996. DNA evidence was collected at the time of her death but no arrests were made. In 2010, the perpetrator was arrested on an unrelated charge in Louisiana. DNA taken at the time of the arrest linked him to Baker’s murder and he ultimately pleaded guilty.
New tax guide is released
The Texas Comptroller’s office on Jan. 27 announced its release of “A Field Guide to the Taxes of Texas” — a report providing an overview of Texas’ major state taxes.
Every year, the state collects billions in state taxes and fees, federal receipts and other sources of revenue. The funds are used to pay for all of the responsibilities of state government, including the education of more than 5 million public school students and the provision of health insurance for more than 4 million low-income Texans, said state Comptroller Glenn Hegar.
AG: Letter to school districts
School districts must refrain from spending public funds to advocate for or against political candidates, said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a Jan. 28 mailing to school districts across the state.
Included in the mailing were educational materials detailing the importance of the role of educators in the civic process and providing guidelines for legally and effectively leading both employees and students through the 2020 election.
Capital Highlights is compiled by Ed Sterling for the Texas Press Association on a weekly basis.