Gov. Abbott says ‘abundant supply of beds available’ in latest COVID-19 update

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state health leaders acknowledged the current rise in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, but say the number is manageable.

Gov. Abbott reported that the state’s positive case number will hit a new high Tuesday with 2,622 confirmed cases by the Department of State Health Services. There are 2,518 Texans currently hospitalized with COVID-19, Gov. Abbott says.

Hospitalizations have slowly been increasing since the beginning of the month. According to data from DSHS, 2,326 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized as of Monday. On June 1, there were 1,756 hospitalizations reported.

As for the reasoning for the rise in cases, Gov. Abbott cited specific examples of cases increasing in prisons and assisted living facilities in the state, but also linked the increase to potential lapses in social distancing.

“There has been an increase in the number of people testing positive and we’ve seen reasons. However, we can accurately say there’s been an increase in people testing positive because they may not be practicing these safe standards,” Gov. Abbott said.

The state leaders continued to stress the importance of wearing a mask and practicing social distancing as Texas continues along its plan to reopen the economy.

Gov. Abbott specifically discussed the rise in cases that Hays County is currently experiencing. However, there is conflicting information on the count.

Gov. Abbott reported Hays County had 265 cases Tuesday, but no cases on Monday and Sunday.

State Representative Erin Zwiener responded in a statement correcting the information. The 265 cases were a result of reported cases on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Hays County hasn’t reported its new count for Tuesday. The total adds up to 265, but is an average of 88 cases a day, which is an increase compared to previous numbers, Rep. Zweiner said.

Gov. Abbott was joined by former lawmaker Dr. John Zerwas, Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs of the University of Texas, who is part of the Governor’s supply chain strike force. Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd also joined the news conference.

Back in April, Dr. Zerwas presented the state’s plan to respond if hospitalizations continue to increase. At that time, Texas was at Level 5. For context, there were 826 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on April 4, which was two days after this plan was released.

Texas remains at Level 5 in regards to its hospital capacity, according to Dr. Zerwas.

  • Level 5: Maintain Staffed Beds. This means supporting hospital systems so they can maintain their current capacity.
  • Level 4: Surge to Physical Beds. This aims to enable hospitals to open all physical beds and double the occupancy, which is part of one of the governor’s executive orders.
  • Level 3: Surge Inside Facility: This signals a transition to non-traditional care areas within the hospital, such as an operating room or PACU to care for COVID-19 patients.
  • Level 2: Surge to Adjacent Building. This would mean opening additional capacity in adjacent medical offices or convalescent centers supported by the hospital.
  • Level 1: Surge to Building of Op. This stage would include beds in alternate care sites in remote areas, such as hotels, motels and pop-up hospitals.

Dr. Zerwas said state health leaders are also making calls to hospitals on a weekly basis.

“A common effort on behalf by the Department of State Health Services sometimes myself is to call into these areas and talk specifically with the CEOs in these areas and find out how are you doing on your bed capacity, how are you doing your ICU capacity, do we need to look for any alternative sites to set up for you to manage your patients, and be sure that we always have capability there,” Dr. Zerwas said Tuesday.

He also presented a slideshow, which outlines current hospital capacity in different regions across the state:

  • Dallas-Fort Worth Area Beds Available: 24%
  • Houston Area Beds Available: 21%
  • Tyler Area Beds Available: 27%
  • El Paso Area Beds Available: 31%
  • Amarillo Area Beds Available: 41%
  • Abilene Area Beds Available: 52%
  • Laredo & Rio Grande Valley Area Beds Available: 23%
  • San Antonio Area Beds Available: 26%
  • Austin Area Beds Available: 28%

In an interview Monday, Gov. Abbott commented on the increase in hospitalizations across the state.

“Even though there are more people who are hospitalized, outcomes remain good,” Abbott said, “But in addition to that, capacity remains plentiful. Even though more hospital beds are occupied by those who have COVID-19, there are an abundant number of hospital beds that are available, whether it be in Lubbock are these large cities, so we will be able to make sure that we can treat and provide health care for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19.”

Gov. Abbott also plans to have on update on the state’s plan for the upcoming school year later this week or next week. Gov. Abbott added that he expects students to return to school to interact with teachers and their classmates.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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