Gov. Greg Abbott stops short of statewide shelter-in-place order, increases hospital limits

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gestures to boxes of personal protective equipment during a press conference about the state's response to the coronavirus on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Texas hits 715, Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference at the Texas Department of Public Safety warehouse facility Tuesday regarding the precautions that the state will be taking in regards to the virus.

Abbott will be increasing healthcare precautions in Texas facilities, but stopped short of a statewide shelter-in-place order.

After speaking with Vice President Mike Pence, Abbott said that he is now ordering all surgeons in the state to stop non-essential surgeries. He says that this will increase the number of available hospital beds and will slow the spread of COVID-19.

He requests that all hospitals send reports on hospital capacity to the state health department each day in addition to daily reports of COVID-19 testing.

Abbott additionally requested the donation of medical supplies for those working in the medical field and urged an aggressive approach to this collection directing listeners to the Texas website where they could donate the supplies.

“We are enlisting every doctor, every nurse, every medical personnel we can find,” Abbott said. “There may be some who are retired. There may be some who are still in nursing school who qualify under my executive order expanding the scope of the nurses who can be involved in helping out and responding to COVID-19.”

He even urged those from out-of-state to provide services to the state of Texas and promised that more than one million masks would be delivered to hospitals in Texas by next week.

He stated that everyone in the United States is in competition for medical supplies at this time.

“The good news is the federal government is racing to increase the supplies, and that’s why you’re seeing an increase in the number of testing kits, collection kits as well as PPE as well as ventilators,” Abbott said.

He also indicated that he will be continuing to let counties decide on their own shelter-in-place orders rather than issuing a state-wide order.

He repeated the order already in place of no more than 10 people together at once, “to-go” orders only and no visitors at senior living homes.

“It’s clear to me that we may not be achieving the level of compliance that is needed,” Abbott said. “That’s why I said before, I remain flexible in my statewide standard.”