(The Center Square) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued new orders to increase hospital bed availability and temporarily pause any further phases to reopen Texas as the state responds to the increased reporting of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Businesses that are permitted to open under the previous phases can continue to operate at the designated occupancy levels and under the minimum standard health protocols provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services, the governor’s office said.
“As we experience an increase in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families,” Abbott said in a statement. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”
The governor has asked that all Texans wear a mask, wash their hands regularly, and practice social distancing from others when in public places.
He also issued an executive order to increase hospital bed availability for COVID-19 patients. The governor’s order also suspends elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties, where the highest numbers of new cases are being found.
Under the order, the governor has directed all hospitals in these counties “to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.”
The governor’s office says he can add or subtract from the list of counties in response to coronavirus case numbers.
The four counties of Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis “have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19,” the governor’s office said.
The order is a “precautionary step to help ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients.”
The Texas Division of Emergency Management, in partnership with the Texas Military Department, is also distributing 3-ply surgical masks to every Texan who chooses to be tested for COVID-19 at state-run mobile test collection sites.
As of Thursday, every Texan who receives a COVID-19 test at a state-run mobile testing site will receive four masks at no charge.
Texans can find a testing site in their neighborhood by visiting TDEM's COVID-19 Test Collection Site map.
“Wearing a mask or facial covering in public is an effective way for Texans to protect themselves and others from the transmission of COVID-19," Abbott said. "This program helps ensure that Texans have the resources they need to effectively mitigate the spread of this virus and keep themselves and their communities safe.”