Story at a glance

  • Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott addressed rising case numbers in Texas, says health care system is "robust."
  • Abbott noted that prison population have composed a sizable portion of new confirmed cases.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) discussed Tuesday the state’s growing coronavirus cases, assuring that the state has ample hospital beds available for surge capacities.

Abbott stressed that hospitals are ready to handle an influx of cases. He was joined by a panel of other experts, including John Zerwas, the executive vice chancellor for Health Affairs of the University of Texas System; John Hellerstedt, the commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services; and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd. 

The panel said beds are becoming available for coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization, and that COVID-19 patients do not account for the majority of inpatients in hospitals. 

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“A lot of COVID patients are out there, they aren’t driving the hospital census,” said Zerwas. 

Data he presented simultaneously showed 14,993 beds available statewide as of June 16, more than previously available in mid-March.

Included in the bed count are adult and children’s hospital beds, but not psychiatric facility beds. 

Combined with more personal protective equipment (PPE) and better knowledge on how to treat coronavirus infections, Abbott said that, “We are better prepared to deal with COVID-19 today than we were back in March or April.” 

Regarding the recent spike in cases, Abbott commented that positive cases among jail and prison populations were the reason for the high data points in recent days. He cited Beaumont prison in Jefferson County and others in Pecos County as having an “outsized influence” in data reporting due to new cases coming in aggregate form after days with no cases reported, making the number seem significantly higher. 


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Abbott additionally said that Tuesday's high case count of 2,622 cases, a new high for Texas, is mainly due to tests coming from an assisted living facility in Collin County. It is due to these “aggressive” testing efforts in congregate settings that Texas’s new case count is rising, Abbott stated, and he anticipates it to fall as “well over a majority” of these facilities have concluded testing. 

Outside of nursing homes and prisons, certain counties in Texas have also been reporting majority of positive coronavirus patients under the age of 30, a new trend Abbott attributes to people resuming social activities in bars as the state reopens. 

While he thinks enforcements should be necessary for businesses that do not comply with social distancing standards, Abbott and his team look to continue reopening.

Hellerstedt said that Texas must “maintain the fact that we have an opening up of our economy that people are able to go back to work to be able to create the goods and services that we all rely upon.” Still, he said, the majority of Texans have not come into contact with the virus, making a second wave of infections possible.

While Abbott said that the best advice is to stay home, Hellerstedt said that reopening and containing the spread are not mutually exclusive.

“They way to do both of these things is to maintain and practice great discipline in the sort of preventive measures…masking, hand washing, hand sanitizing, and the cleaning and disinfecting,” Hellerstedt noted. 

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Published on Jun 16, 2020