Sunday afternoon, the Dallas Morning News reported that they had obtained an email from a hospital association warning that Texas hospitals will run out of beds by late April if Gov. Greg Abbott didn’t order 28.7 million Texans to stay at home.
The warning arrives as more Texans receive testing for COVID-19. About less than 10 percent receive positive test results, Gov. Abbott pointed out at a Sunday afternoon press conference shortly after the Morning News article appeared online.
“I’m not just the governor of Dallas or Houston,” he told reporters after he issued two executive orders to postpone nonessential medical procedures and surgeries and suspend hospital bed capacity regulations. “I’m the governor of the state of Texas. I have to do what’s best statewide.”
Gov. Abbott claimed that a majority of the 254 counties in Texas haven’t had a positive case yet. In fact, out of the more than 8,000 tests given so far, the number of positive cases is hovering between 334 and 566 people, depending if you include the presumptive positive cases.
Six people have died, one in Collin County.
At the Sunday afternoon press conference, Gov. Abbott reassured and encouraged Texans to avoid panicking. “Bottom line is, there is a rapid increase in the number of people being tested. New facilities have been opened in large areas, new drive-thru testing facilities. [We] continue to expect an increase in the number of people testing positive. This is exactly what we are seeking to achieve.”
Two of those drive-thru testing facilities opened over the weekend in Dallas, one at Victory Plaza at American Airlines Center and the other at the Ellis Davis Field House at 9191 South Polk Street. Medical staff expect to be able to test 5,000 people a day. To qualify for testing requires a fever higher than 99.5, and either 65 or older, a Dart driver, a first responder, or a healthcare worker, according to a NBC 5 March 21 report.
Update: as of 3/23, 2:20, age restrictions on testing have been lifted.
In Collin County, some medical facilities are implementing drive-thru consultations if people are experiencing possible symptoms of COVID-19 and meet the CDC’s at-high-risk criteria to help limit the spread of the virus to other patients seeking care.
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Telehealth is also another possibility for people seeking a doctor’s consultation to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Several regulation changes have made it easier to seek help from the telemedicine field. Gov. Abbott recently directed the Texas Department of Insurance to allow state-regulated insurance plans to cover the service, which allows physicians to get paid for it.
“Testing capabilities will increase,” he stressed again at the press conference Sunday afternoon. “We are testing to the fullest extent of testing capabilities at this time. The reason for the increase is because we have received more tests from the federal government.”
A few days ago, Gov. Abbott stressed the need for Texans to start practicing social distancing by issuing a historic executive order that closed bars, restaurants (in-dining), and other businesses and warned people not to gather in large groups (more than 9 people).
Abbott mentioned the executive order Sunday afternoon and claimed he was “seeing a good aggressive compliance of it” from his fellow Texans. He expects a full compliance or people could be facing fines (about $1,000) and jail time (up to 180 days).
“What may be right for urban areas may not be right for the other counties who have zero [cases],” Gov. Abbott said, pointing out that local officials have the power to implement stricter standards if needed.
Shortly after the press conference, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a shelter-in-place order for residents effective at 11:59 p.m. Monday, closing all nonessential businesses. (Gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants with delivery or take out are considered essential businesses.)
“This is going to spread across this state,” Judge Jenkins said, according to WFAA. “A month from now, nobody is going to be saying, ‘Thank God I was able to go to work for an extra two weeks. They’ll be saying, ‘I wish my community would have acted sooner.”
Collin County Judge Chris Hill was still weighing his options at the time this report was written. As of Sunday evening, there were 31 positive COVID-19 cases confirmed in Collin County.
As Judge Hill figures out his game plan, Gov. Abbott plans to deploy the National Guard to help hospitals build temporary facilities like medical testing tents or possibly help the drive-thru testing facilities, which have seen a steady stream of people seeking COVID-19 tests since opening.
“If we do what we are asked to do as Texans, we have the opportunity to reduce the spread of it,” Gov. Abbott said. “People are eager to do exactly that, and people understand that this is a critical period of time. You can see it everywhere, and that is a very positive sign and enables us to defeat COVID-19.”