Governor increases healthcare and hospital capacity with two executive orders


POOL via The Texas Tribune, Jordan Vonderhaar

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott updates the public on the state’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 at a press conference held March 22.

Sierra Martin, Senior News Reporter

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott updates the public on the state’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, focusing primarily on maximizing healthcare and hospital capacity.

At a press conference, 3 p.m. March 22, Gov. Abbott said as of March 22, 334 people have tested positive for COVID-19 across 43 counties in Texas. Additionally, there have been a total of six deaths and nearly 8,700 people have received tests in the state.

Abbott said there has been a large increase in the number of tests given to Texas citizens, where less than 10% of people have tested positive. Abbott anticipates that Texas will continue to increase the number of people tested as more supplies become available.

Abbott is issuing two executive orders to maximize capacity of COVID-19 patients in hospitals. The first executive order calls for all surgeries that are not absolutely necessary or considered life-threatening to be rescheduled, in order to allow doctors and hospitals to focus on COVID-19 cases.

The second executive order would allow hospitals to increase their bed space and number of patients treated. For instance, this order will allow two patient beds to be placed in every hospital room.

To increase the number of available nurses, Abbott has waived regulations to allow nurses who have not yet completed their licensing exam or currently have an inactive license to work. He is also fast-tracking permits for out-of-state medical professionals.

Abbott said the state of Texas has the money necessary to obtain the proper medical and preventative supplies but lacks the ability to purchase them from the federal government. He is asking the federal government to accelerate the production of all personal protection and testing equipment. Abbott announced a strike-force focused on global supplies of all resources needed to effectively combat COVID-19.

Abbott is going to employ the help of the National Guard in order to help meet the medical needs of the state, noting that they will assist in drive-through testing centers and possibly resort to setting up tents outside of hospitals to address the overflow.

On March 20, Abbott passed an executive order enforcing people cannot gather in groups larger than 10 people and closing all bars and restaurants for dine-in. At the press conference, he noted that lack of compliance to the order will lead to penalties including fines of up to $1,000, potential jail time of up to 180 days and potential mandatory quarantine orders.

When addressing concerns on if the state of Texas should be placed under shelter and place status, Gov. Abbott notes that 211 counties in Texas have not confirmed any cases of COVID-19 and that the spread is mostly being seen in large urban areas. The state government is observing the effectiveness of the recently enacted executive orders before increasing quarantine measures.

“Local officials have the authority to implement more strict standards then what I as governor have ordered in the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “I will always remain flexible and on a moment’s notice we will take whatever strategies are needed on a statewide level to ensure we are doing all we can to combat the expansion of COVID-19.”

Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, spoke during the press conference about the measures being taken to improve medical care in the state.

“It is very clear, based on the data that we have that we are in the early stages of community spread of COVID-19,” Hellerstedt said. “If we do what we have been asked to do, together as Texans, we can have the opportunity to dramatically decrease the spread of COVID-19 in our state.”

Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd also spoke at the press conference, thanking first responders and healthcare workers during the outbreak and encouraging people not to panic.

Individuals concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19 are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider or the Hays County Local Health Department at 512.393.5520. For additional information about COVID-19, visit the Texas Department of State Health Services or the Centers for Disease Control website.

Updates to Gov. Abbott’s announcements and enactments can be found here.

The University Star’s COVID-19 coverage can be found here

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