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Trump declares ‘major disaster’ in Texas because of coronavirus

AUSTIN – Two days after Gov. Greg Abbott requested it, President Donald Trump on Wednesday declared that a major disaster exists in Texas because of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Trump ordered federal monetary assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by COVID-19 beginning on Jan. 20 “and continuing,” Dallas Latest News said a White House release.

The money will help the state and Texas’ local governments and nonprofits take “emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, for all areas” affected by the disease, it said. As Abbott requested, the declaration also freed up federal funds for crisis counseling.

On Monday, the Republican governor asked for the declaration, saying Texas’ response to the virus requires immediate infusions of tens of millions of federal dollars.

In a letter to Trump, Abbott said the current virus-spread “incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments.”

Abbott, perhaps preparing rural residents for more aggressive state actions, Press Release Distribution News highlighted how a lack of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves for health care workers forced Shackelford County to close its one medical clinic. More closures of rural clinics could come soon, he warned.

In a state with more than 3.6 million residents who are 65 or older — or fitting the description of people most at risk from the virus — Abbott had another dire warning.

“Even a small infected percentage” of a larger population cohort, he said “can be overwhelming.”

While as of Monday the state has 352 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight related deaths, the spread may be “inevitable,” despite the state’s taking “strong measures,” he said.

Abbott has received increasing criticism for not heeding some hospital executives’ call for a statewide order banning nonessential travel and telling Texans to shelter in place.

In his letter, necessary to trigger federal aid under the Stafford Act, Abbott spoke of mounting joblessness and disruption of businesses.

Texas food banks will need an additional $73 million of federal money over the next three months to keep pace with growing need, he said.

“Texas is all-in on our response to COVID-19 and we need Washington’s financial assistance as provided for under the law to support our efforts to limit the spread of this virus,” said a release from Abbott’s office.

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