Gov. Abbott feels ‘more confident now than I ever have’ on state’s medical supply chain as Texas responds to COVID-19

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott delivered the latest update on the state’s response to COVID-19 — in particularly, Texas’ current stock of medical supplies.

Abbott gave a briefing at a Texas Department of Public Safety warehouse in Austin, the same location where he touted purchase orders worth $83 million that the team had procured in a handful of days in a March 24 press conference.

Fast-forward to Monday, Abbott explained that the numbers of personal protective equipment — or PPE — have risen dramatically in the past week.

“I feel more confident now than I ever have with regard to access to PPE supplies,” Abbott said. “Which is more than enough right now.”

Abbott explained in a presentation that over the past week, Texas has distributed: 1.6 million masks, 209,856 face shields, over 2.7 million gloves, 169,231 gowns, and 7,594 coveralls.

Additionally, Abbott said Texas has received 2.5 million masks in the last 24 hours alone, and that 3 million more will be arriving by the end of the week.

During the conference, the Governor gave the latest figures for COVID-19 cases from across the state, saying that, per Texas Health and Human Services, there are now:

  • 7,276 cases reported
  • cases in 157 of 254 counties
  • 85,357 people tested
  • 140 deaths

“We should easily exceed 100,000 people tested this week,” the Governor added.

Abbott explained that Texas is working to combine resources from the federal government and private sectors to gather as much PPE as possible.

“There were supplies that preexisted the onset of COVID-19, some of it was in the national stockpile, some of it was in the private sector, a lot of it was quickly exhausted. Now that we have an effective supply chain working for the state of Texas, we’ve opened up a lot of new avenues through the private sector across the globe now dramatically increasing our ability to acquire and disseminate PPE across the entire state of Texas,” Abbott said.

Dr. Hellerstedt explained how facilities are prioritized for the distribution of PPE.

Hospitals and health care professionals in direct contact with COVID-19 patients are at the top of the list, then EMS personnel needed for respiratory issues, then health care staff administering tests, followed by health care facilities like long-term care facilities with an emerging outbreak, then isolated patient step-down locations.

TDEM Chief Kidd issued a reminder to local officials to track any invoices or receipts related to COVID-19 costs for federal reimbursement, which falls under FEMA Category B.

Chief Kidd also discussed how much PPE is currently available in different regions, as of April 5:

  • Dallas-Fort Worth:
    • Masks: 369,960; Face Shields: 56,652; Gloves: 681,860; Gowns: 53,268; Coveralls: 1,973
  • Houston:
    • Masks: 401,132; Face Shields: 60,624; Gloves: 737,600; Gowns: 46,164; Coveralls: 1,211
  • Tyler:
    • Masks: 101,990; Face Shields: 12,584; Gloves: 204,000; Gowns: 9,594; Coveralls: 498
  • El Paso:
    • Masks: 68,880; Face Shields: 8,456; Gloves: 136,800; Gowns: 6,336; Coveralls: 328
  • Amarillo:
    • Masks: 101,580; Face Shields: 12,580; Gloves: 215,500; Gowns: 9,594; Coveralls: 485
  • Coastal Bend Area:
    • Masks: 101,000; Face Shields: 12,672; Gloves: 194,070; Gowns: 9,594; Coveralls: 524
  • San Antonio:
    • Masks: 230,620; Face Shields: 29,480; Gloves: 348,000; Gowns: 21,931; Coveralls: 1,042
  • Austin:
    • Masks: 125,170; Face Shields: 16,808; Gloves: 203,520; Gowns: 12,750; Coveralls: 598

Abbott teased a future announcement relating to additional personal protective equipment.

“I don’t want to get ahead of things, because I don’t want to announce it until I have it in hand,” he said. “But knowing the information I have, and the visibility of what’s coming in, Texas looks to be very well-supplied.”

The Governor was joined by Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, Chief Nim Kidd, head of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and Dr. John Zerwas, Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs of the University of Texas System.

The quartet held a press conference April 3 to update Texans on hospital bed capacity.

As part of the presentation delivered by Abbott and Zerwas on Friday, the duo shared a series of slides charting the bed capacity in the state. Zerwas said the beds the state can identify and create lack meaning if there are not enough doctors and nurses to staff those rooms and beds. Faced with concerns that medical professionals themselves are becoming infected with COVID-19, state leaders are working on a pipeline of manpower to help keep hospitals up and running, particularly in rural areas, Zerwas said Friday.

During that same Friday announcement, Abbott said in the previous six days, the Supply Chain Strike Force has provided more than 1.4 million face masks, more than 190,000 face shields, more than two million gloves and more than 160,000 gowns. Chief Kidd said the state had received 3.8 million masks, a smaller number than what state leaders had asked for from primarily federal partners.

In an interview which aired April 5 on State of Texas, Zerwas said the Strike Force has had some success bringing in supplies, but acknowledged the supply had not caught up with the demand.

“I think we as a state, and we as a country, are starting to catch up on this,” Zerwas said.

“We’re turning to everybody for some of these supplies, because they’re in such great demand,” Zerwas said. “Not every lead we get on supplies is a good one, I’m sorry to say,” he added.

One difficulty is the worldwide demand for medical supplies due to COVID-19. “I don’t think any of us have ever been in a situation where the disaster was everywhere,” Zerwas said. “I don’t think I have, nor anybody else, has really experienced something on this magnitude.”

Abbott said Friday the implementation of his recent executive orders have increased hospital bed availability by 142%.

During the conference on Friday, Abbott commended Texas residents and organizations for their response and help — and asked for more. “Keep your offers coming, keep your supplies coming. Keep your volunteers coming.”

The State has set up a website for Texans to offer services and supplies: Texas.Gov/COVID19.

Abbott’s office announced Sunday night he temporarily waived regulations to allow certain people who are close to earning licenses to become medical professionals to get to work.

Additionally, Abbott posted a video to Twitter on Sunday thanking grocery store workers for “providing the food and supplies that are in such high demand.”

“Our fellow Texans would not be able to continue living without what you are doing,” Abbott said.

Watch the full press conference here:

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