NOTE: A pool report is one reporter taking notes and making them available to all media for publication
Gov. Greg Abbott held a briefing just after 2 pm Thursday at the Texas State Capitol with Texas State Health Commissioner John Hellerstedt and Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. The briefing lasted about 25 minutes.
Gov. Greg Abbott began his briefing by updating the state on testing. He reminded people that last week he said testing should increase by 15,000 tests per week. He said in the last 6 days they were exceeding that. Last Friday Texas had 2,335 tests. As of today, he said 21,424.
“We are on a very good trajectory,” Abbott said. “I expect that to increase.”
He said last Friday 95 people tested positive for COVID-19, now there are over 1,424.
“With the additional testing that is taking place every single day, that means during the course of the day there will be more people added to those numbers. As a result there very likely could be even more people testing positive by the end of the business day today.”
The important fact is that less than 10 percent of the people tested for COVID-19 test positive.
Last Friday he said Texas had 5 deaths. Now he said they have 18 deaths reported.
COVID 19 has now been identified in 90 counties. Texas has 254 counties. Last Friday we 39 had counties with COVID-19.
Abbott said we have 100 patients in hospitals in Texas with COVID-19.
“Less than 10 percent of the people who test positive need to be in a hospital as of this time.”
Now our goal in this whole testing process is to test as many people as possible to see those numbers grow and then to see a leveling off of the increase in those numbers in Texas,” Abbott said.
“So as we continue to increase testing, the fact of the matter is those who test positive will continue to increase.”
But Abbott says as the state continues to practice social distancing those numbers will level off.
Praised counties and cities for setting up mobile and easy access testing locations around the state. Thanks private center medical center for helping boost testing.
Abbott said people are complying and practicing self-distancing.
“All of us have a linked responsibility to live up to the national standard to do all we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Texas,” Abbott said.
Said in “quintessential Texas fashion” people in Texas are stepping up to help out and volunteer and offer donations. Says retired and out of state doctors and nurses are offering up their time and expertise to fight COVID -19.
“We are incredibly grateful to our medical personnel who are on the front lines of this war against the spread of this disease,” Abbott said.
"One of our top priorities is making a good assessment of hospitals. We did a good job in setting standards to open up more bed capacity." Reminds that he’s issued executive order to postpone non-essential medical surgeries and waiving some licensing regulations to bring recently closed hospitals back online.
Says there are more than 3,000 beds across Texas that have become available because of those moves.
He said, for example, in the Dallas region there are 1,700 beds that are available today in the event they are needed for Covid -19. In the Metroplex he said there are more than 2,300 hundred beds available if they are needed for COVID-19
But Abbott said their job is to “be constantly looking forward to the worst-case scenario where we may be. We don’t want to be in a situation like New York is in right now.”
Said he is constantly coming up with new strategies to free up more beds.
He reminds the audience that President Trump granted his request for a major disaster declaration on Wednesday.
“It frees up a tremendous amount of resources that the state will be able to need and use to respond to COVID-19,” Abbott said.
Said Texas is doing a very good job in trying to slow the spread of COVID-19. Thanks Texans again for social distancing.
“It is essential that you continue those practices,” Abbott said.
TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS ON NYC/NEW ORLEANS
Said he is in frequent contact with the President, vice president, and CDC officials. Said based on a call earlier in the day with Dr. Birks, he was going to issue executive order to require travelers from New York, New Jersey, and Conn., to mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days or the duration of their stay in Texas, whichever is shorter.
Says dramatic increase in cases in Louisiana and New Orleans, is also of concern and said travelers from New Orleans will also be subject to a 14-day self-quarantine. He said DPS will require incoming flyers from New Orleans to designate their self-quarantine location. Troopers will visit those locations to verify compliance with the executive order. Failure to comply is considered a “criminal offense that is punishable by up to a 1,000 fine or 180 days in jail.”
Quarantined people cannot allow visitors during that period.
“We know we have more work ahead of us as we combat the spread of COVID-19 in Texas,” Abbott said.
“In typical Texas fashion, Texans are always prepared to deal with whatever challenge that may come our way and we do it both with a sense of resiliency as well as a sense of compassion. And I am incredibly proud to see the way my fellow Texans are responding to this challenge.”
“With each day we get closer and closer to eventually being able to put this behind us,” Abbott said. “
Dr. John Hellerstedt then added that the basis for quarantining NY tri-state travelers and New Orleans travelers “is very sound.”
1. How many hospital beds does Texas have and how many will we need for the apex when it comes?
Abbott: "The total number of beds is not is what’s relevant. What’s relevant is the number of beds that are available to being able to address Covid-19. So we’re constantly working on identifying those numbers across the state of Texas, then once we know what those numbers are we model for what is considered to be a midlevel case scenario or a worst-case scenario. Then we have several different strategies that we’re working on as we speak to increase the bed capacity so that we can model whichever strategy may occur."
2. Do we have enough ventilators in the state of Texas to handle and apex coming?
Abbott: “So we put out a request for information from all hospitals in the state of Texas with regard to ventilator capacity. And we’re getting that information as we speak. Some early information shows that we have some supplies to make sure that we will be able to respond to the immediate need.” Said he’s working on a strategy to make sure they have enough for a worst-case scenario.
3. How many more places could travel quarantine be opened up to?
Abbott said “two of the most obvious” potential places would be California and Washington state. He said in briefings with Dr. Birks and Fauci those states have not been mentioned like they brought up New Orleans and the New York Tri-state area. Said there is language n the executive order saying he can extend the travel restrictions.
4. How will Highway travelers from New Orleans be treated? Will there be a checkpoint?
Abbott said: “There is nothing in the executive order concerning travel by roadway.”
5. What about schools? Any more guidance
Abbott said there will be a national reassessment to see where we are and see what the next steps are. He said the next steps will be guided by advice by Dr. Hellerstedt, the advice of the CDC and all with collaboration from local jurisdictions. Said they will “put the safety of students and educators first.”
Said it is impossible to make a decision on when they will be able to open back up. Says he sees a potential to extend the date.
6. Testing per capita is way behind other states. Why aren’t we testing as much per capita as other states?
Abbott said: “We are administering every test that we get.” He said on collection supplies and testing supplies we are “using full capacity” of supplies provided by the federal government. “The federal government has triaged this in a way the prioritizes New York for obvious reasons. California and Washington for obvious reasons. There have been more severe cases in Illinois and Louisiana and some other states. So the good news is if you were to look and see where Texas ranks in the number of deaths, we rank like 11th or 12th in the country.” The federal government is prioritizing states with the highest number of deaths, he added. He said testing will continue to increase.
“You can expect that increase to continue because the country’s capabilities of creating and distributing more tests increases rapidly.”
7. Response to Trump's stated hope to reopen the country by Easter?
Abbott said there is “an urgent desire to get back to work and get back to normal” after being constrained to homes. “Everyone understands we will all be working off of the best advice from medical professionals.” “We wouldn’t want to suddenly open schools or businesses only to have to shut them down again.” Add that it is an “evaluation that takes place on a constant basis to make the best judgment as to when and how we will begin to open the economy” as well as all the other parts of our society. “Way too early to tell right now.”