Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. | Eric Gay/AP Photo
AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott issued two executive orders mandating that the state’s health care facilities postpone elective medical procedures and suspending regulations to allow hospitals to treat two patients in one room in an effort to combat the spread of Covid-19.
He also announced the creation of a “strike force” to help Texas procure medical supplies and said that he was deploying the National Guard to help providers organize testing areas and assist hospitals in creating more bed space.
Abbott has grown increasingly aggressive in responding to the pandemic, following the lead of Texas cities and counties and other states around the country. Texas, however, still lags in testing capabilities.
State officials said at Sunday’s news conference that Texas was in the early stages of the outbreak and that the measures were intended to help boost hospital capacity, supplies and medical staff as more people fall critically ill.
Hospitals could face fines and providers could face jail if they don’t comply with the order postponing elective procedures. The “strike force” includes former Republican state Rep. John Zerwas, an anesthesiologist, as well as an executive from Austin-based Dell Technologies. Abbott added that the state had funds to pay for protective equipment and other supplies needed to help treat patients, but couldn’t find supplies.
The governor said that the state wasn’t prepared to strengthen restrictions on people’s movement and issue shelter-in-place rules, but added that he would consider stricter measures if people don’t follow his earlier order banning gatherings of more than 10 people. Several cities and counties already have imposed stricter bans on gatherings.
“The only thing that matters right now is public health and safety,” said Abbott.
There are now more than 300 confirmed cases of coronavirus and six deaths have been reported. The state has tested nearly 9,000 people so far.