Gov. Abbott orders postponing unnecessary surgeries, maximizing hospital beds in executive moves

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is directing health care authorities to postpone unnecessary surgeries and is trying to maximize hospital rooms as part of two new executive orders he announced on Sunday.

It’s the latest update in the state’s battle against the spread of COVID-19.

Throughout the week, the state has progressively made more stringent demands as the count of coronavirus cases in Texas exceeds 500.

Two new executive orders

In a 3 p.m. press conference on Sunday, Gov. Abbott directed all licensed healthcare professionals and facilities to postpone surgeries and procedures not medically necessary to correct a medical condition or to save a patient’s life.

His second executive order includes trying to maximize hospital rooms, and he gave an example of possibly treating more than one patient in a room to increase the number of people who can get treated.

He also said in the week to come, the Texas National Guard would be deployed to help where needed. That includes to provide relief for local law enforcement agencies at drive-thru testing sites to help with clearing and screening drivers in line.

He also said they would help with setting up new testing sites as more come up.

Will the state enact a statewide shelter-in-place?

On Friday, Abbott enacted a public gathering ban of no more than 10 people for the state, which effectively shut down restaurants, bars, schools and gyms across the state. The public gathering ban is currently expected to last until Friday, April 3.

He emphasized the need to follow what he’s already enacted, but put the onus on local officials to enact stricter strategies. Gov. Abbott added that what might be best for more urban cities of the state, might not necessarily be best for the more rural areas.

KXAN has reached out to Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s office about whether he is considering that step, and when that could come.

Resources for healthcare workers

As the gap between the call for more personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and the race to get them grows, the city of Austin put out a call Sunday for people to donate masks, gloves and thermometers.

They set up donations sites, calling on the Austin community to show up for healthcare workers.

Abbott said in his Sunday press conference that if private companies had personal protective equipment to sell, the state would be willing to pay.

“We have ready money to pay for anybody who can sell PPE to us, we will cut you a check on the spot,” he said, though he did not elaborate on what exactly that would look like.

He also leaned on the federal government to keep supplies coming to Texas. Abbott said the state’s efforts to limit the spread of the virus “is going to be limited if we do not have more PPE. That is why I am strongly urging our federal partners to step up the production and acquisition capabilities that they have in a way far superior to the state’s.”

“There’s delivery dates in July,” he said. “That’s not going to work. We need delivery dates tomorrow, the next day.”

Abbott announced the creation of a temporary supply chain strike force, comprised of medical and technology experts. The team will assist in gathering medical supplies, beefing up resources for hospitals, boosting inventory for daycare facilities and focusing on research.

Where do testing numbers stand?

Gov. Greg Abbott said on March 20, according to numbers from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 2,335 people had been tested for COVID-19. On March 21, that number tripled to more than 6,400.

As of Sunday morning, the number of people tested jumped to 8,700.

During a town hall on Thursday, the Governor explained that the spread of COVID-19 isn’t a possibility, but an inevitability, saying that residents must take steps now to slow and stop the disease’s outreach.

Gov. Abbott believes the state has the resources for people most in need of a test, but that he is working with the federal government to help keep up with the demand for those tests.

Sunday, he explained the importance of remembering though that many people had been tested in the state, less than 10 percent of those came back positive.

WATCH Gov. Abbott’s full press conference below:

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