Gov. Abbott addresses hospital capacity in Texas, accused of inaccurate statements on Hays County

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POOL, Miguel Gutierrez, Texas Tribune

Gov. Abbott announces updates for the state, Friday, April 17, 2020, in the state capitol.

Daniel Weeks, News Editor

Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference June 16 to address hospital capacity in the state, reporting the highest daily number of new positive cases since June 10. State Rep. Erin Zwiener stated Abbott’s comments on Hays County were inaccurate.

Abbott said 2,622 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Texas on June 16. He stated this increase was because of testing of an assisted living center in Collin County. Abbott also cited the Hays County case increase as a reason for the record spike, stating “It seems like [Hays County weekend reports] were batched together and averaged out,”

State Rep. Erin Zwiener released an email response to Abbott’s statements, calling them inaccurate.

“Governor Abbott stated that Hays reported 265 cases [June 16], [zero on June 15] and [zero on June 16],” Zwiener said. “He presumed that the 265 cases were batched together. He also stated that when averaged it was a little above the previous average of 30-40 cases a day.”

The email states Hays County typically issues daily press statements with its case counts. It says the county reported 69 cases on June 15; 54 on June 14; and 142 on June 13.

“These case counts add to 265 but average to 88 cases a day,” the email states. “Prior to June 9, Hays County had never reported more than 20 cases a day, and the seven-day average was at a new high of 13.”

The email says as of June 15 the current seven-day average is 71. New hospitalizations and the positive testing rate are also increasing, and Hays County reported it was behind on paperwork due to high case counts.

“Case counts in Hays County have increased more than fivefold in a week,” Zwiener said. “I would love to meet with [Abbott] to discuss the situation on the ground so that he can provide more accurate information in the future and help our communities respond to these alarming numbers.”

According to Abbott, a majority of new people testing positive in various counties are under the age of 30. Out of the 938 lab-confirmed cases in Hays County, 476 are between the ages of 20 and 29. Abbott said this results from the demographic being asymptomatic and going to bar-type locations, stating TABC will enforce state-level health protocols by threatening an emergency 30-day liquor license revocation for bars and restaurants. The current requirements state bars can hold 50% capacity and restaurants can hold 75% capacity.

Abbott said 2,518 people in the state were hospitalized June 16, stating this number is a small percentage of beds available. Dr. John Zerwas, a physician from Richmond, gave a presentation on the state’s hospital bed availability.

There are 14,993 total beds available in Texas out of the state’s 54,844 beds. According to Zerwas, 28% of the Austin area’s 3,250 beds are available, and around 137 COVID confirmed patients are in the hospital. In San Antonio, 26% of the state’s 5,799 reported beds are available to COVID-19 patients.

Zerwas said 1,675 ICU beds are available in the state. He did not specify the distribution of these beds to Texas counties.

Abbott said county judges have the ability to fine executive order violations related to COVID-19, but this has not been utilized. He said the best way to contain the virus is for Texans to follow safety precautions.

“We all have a responsibility for our own health and for the health of our loved ones, friends and neighbors. COVID-19 still exists in Texas, and if we are to contain the spread while getting Texans back to work, all Texans must do their part,” Abbott said. “That means making safe and smart decisions like wearing a mask, washing your hands, and socially distancing in public. The more Texans protect their own health, the safer our state will be and the more we will be able to open up for business.”

Abbott plans on making an announcement this week or next week on the upcoming school year. He states: “It is my expectation to see students return to schools in a classroom setting—able to interact with teachers as well as able to interact with other students.”

The University Star will continue to provide COVID-19 updates as any additional information is released.

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.

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


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