Gov. Greg Abbott touts hospital capacity

Gov. Gregg Abbott says that, though the number of COVID-19 cases has increased in Texas, the state has enough hospital beds to handle the current number of hospitalized patients as well as many future ones. He added that the numbers alone don’t tell the story.

Despite an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the state, Gov. Greg Abbott wanted to reassure Texans of one thing during his media conference Tuesday.

“We are here today to let Texans know about the abundant hospital capacity that exists to treat Texans who may test positive for COVID-19,” the governor said. 

He also pointed out that the state recorded 2,622 more cases on June 16, a new daily high.

Burnet and Llano counties also recorded an increase in positive cases. As of June 15, Burnet County has 68 cases of COVID-19 with 44 considered recovered, three hospitalized, and one death. Llano County is up to five cases with three recovered. According to Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham, all 445 residents and staff of the county’s two nursing homes and three assisted-living facilities have been tested, and all results came back negative. 

Even as Texas hit its highest number of reported cases for one day, Abbott said the state has the hospital capacity to handle those cases and many more, if necessary. He added that residents should look behind the numbers for the full picture.

Abbott said a large number of the new cases June 16 came from an assisted-living facility in Collin County. Usually, the county averages 25-30 new cases a day, but it reported 120 new ones Tuesday, the bulk coming from a batch of tests out of the assisted-living facility. 

Another big increase was in Hays County. Abbott said data revealed the majority of those new cases were young adults under 30. Some of those cases, the governor said, might be due to people going out more, including to bars.

The key to slowing the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, Abbott said, is to wear face masks, wash hands regularly, cover one’s mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, maintain social distancing, and look out for vulnerable populations such as residents 65 and older. He added that staying home is always a good idea.

Dr. John Zerwas, the executive vice chancellor for Health Affairs for the University of Texas System, joined Abbott on Tuesday. Zerwas has been in contact with hospital and healthcare system leaders across the state in reference to their capacity and capabilities. In all, Texas has 54,844 hospital beds. Of those, 14,993 are still available. 

In the Austin area, which includes Burnet and Llano counties along with Williamson, Travis, and Hays counties, 910 hospital beds out of 3,250 are available. Only 137 lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients are currently in area hospitals.

The state has set up a five-level alert system regarding COVID-19 medical capabilities with 5 being the least severe and 1 being the most critical. As of June 16, the state is at level 5. 

Both Zerwas and Abbott said the state is much better prepared today for COVID-19 in response, prevention, and treatment than it was in March and April.

The governor added that Texas can handle COVID-19 response while reopening the state’s economy at the same time.

“As we begin to open up Texas and Texans return to their jobs, we remain laser-focused on maintaining abundant hospital capacity,” Abbott said. “The best way to contain the spread of the virus is by all Texans working together and following simply safety precautions. We all have the responsibility for our own health and for the health of our loved ones, friends, and neighbors. COVID-19 still exists in Texas, and if we are to contain the spread while getting Texans back to work, all Texans must do their part.”

daniel@thepicayune.com

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