AUSTIN, Texas — As cities across Texas have issued orders for their residents to stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Greg Abbott on March 24 announced more executive orders in response to COVID-19.
Abbott reiterated an executive order issued on March 22 and issued a new one on March 24. First, Abbott said hospitals must postpone all surgeries not medically necessary to free up more hospital beds to battle the spread of coronavirus. Second, the governor said hospitals must submit daily reports on hospital bed capacity to state health department and all healthcare providers must reports of COVID-19 testing.
Abbott also updated Texas coronavirus statistics. Abbott said, as of March 24, Texas had 715 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 11 coronavirus-related deaths across 65 counties. 11,000 tests had been conducted as of March 24, according to Abbott.
“You can expect the number of tests to continue to go up every day,” Abbott said.
There has been a high demand for personal protection equipment for healthcare workers, according to Abbott. To address the demand, Abbott said the supply chain strike force placed an order for more than $80 million worth of supplies. Abbott said Texas Division Emergency Management will receive 100,000 masks per day and the strike force should also get another 100,000 masks per day. Texas, all together, should receive 1 million masks per week, according to Abbott.
The governor said since his disaster declaration, there had been an outpouring of support. Medical groups have offered up the masks and medical gear, including the Texas Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Texas Medical Association. Dr. Luis Rios, president of the Texas Society of Plastic Surgeons, delivered 1,000 masks, 1,000 gloves and hundreds of gowns, the governor said. TxDOT had also donated 3,500 N95 masks to battle coronavirus, according to Abbott.
"Together, we will defeat COVID-19 in the state of Texas," Abbott said.
KVUE reached out to Texas Department of Health Services (DSHS) regarding the amount of masks, gowns and gloves needed across the state to adequately combat coronavirus. DSHS told KVUE it did not have a comprehensive count for the state, but reiterated more equipment was needed. DSHS officials said they were working with the governor’s supply chain strike force and Texas Division of Emergency Management to secure more through various channels, including the Strategic National Stockpile, other federal sources and private sources.
When asked about President Donald Trump's vow to reopen the economy and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's latest remarks on Fox News, Abbott said his decisions will remain predicated on the advice of DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt and calls with governors and the White House.
"I will base my decision as governor of the state of Texas on what physicians say," he said, adding that health and safety should be a top priority. "If the goal is to get the economy going, the best thing we can do to get the economy going is to get COVID-19 behind us."
On March 22, Abbott issued two executive orders that he said would free up "countless hospital beds" across the state. He ordered medical professionals to postpone procedures and surgeries that are not necessary in order to increase the capacity of hospital rooms available. He also urged hospitals to allow more than one patient per hospital room.
At the same press conference, Abbott said he would not issue a statewide shelter-in-place yet, pointing to the 200-plus counties in Texas with no coronavirus cases. Abbott did, however, mention local officials have the power to issue such regulations for their respective areas.
Austin, Williamson County, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Waco have since issued similar orders mandating that residents stay home and that non-essential businesses close. Here's what's open in Austin under that order.
For those wishing to donate either supplies or medical professionals looking to donate their time, Abbott advised them to visit www.texas.gov for more information.
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