Gov. Abbott OKs More Patients in a Hospital Room, Declines to Order Shelter in Place

Gov. Terry Abbott at his Sunday press conference.
Gov. Terry Abbott at his Sunday press conference.

On a busy Sunday, Texas Gov. Terry Abbott issued two new executive orders involving healthcare and the coronavirus but he declined a request from North Texas hospital executives to issue a statewide shelter in place order.

One order says that all elective surgeries and non-emergency medical procedures should be postponed.

The other frees up more beds by relaxing the limitations on the number of patients who may be staying in one hospital room.

In response to questions, the governor said he did not know whether school in the state will resume in the coming semester.

'It just depends upon whether or not there has been any reduction in the spread of COVID-19,' Abbott replied.

'It’s impossible to tell right now because our stricter standards are just now going into effect. It will require at least several weeks of observation to see whether or not there may be some containment of the spread of COVID-19. If there is, there is a possibility for them opening. If there’s not,' Education Commissioner Mike Morath is working on 'flexible strategies,' Abbott said. Where it’s available, students could resume with online learning, he said. Where that’s not available, teachers would deliver packets to homes.

Asked what it would take for him to decide to order a shelter in place, Abbott said:

“It will be an aggregation of factors that weigh into the decision about whether or not stricter standards are needed,” he said. The level of compliance with his Thursday order banning large gatherings, which took effect over the weekend, is something he’ll be watching closely, he said.

“If we see strict compliance with the current standard, that means that the current standard is working well,” he said. “If you don’t have an essential reason to be leaving your home, you should not be leaving your home,” the governor said. “It’s pretty much that.

"If we see activities that promote further spread of COVID-19, then stricter standards will be needed,” he said.

Definitions of shelter in place seem to vary depending on jurisdiction but basically it would mean that other than for work services deemed essential (police, fire department, health care) people would be restricted to their homes where they could work remotely. If they couldn't work remotely and were not part of essential services, then they couldn't work. Leaving your residence for a medical emergency would also be allowed. In Texas it has usually been activated when there is something like a hazardous chemical spill in a neighborhood.

Pool reporting from the governor's press conference was provided by Bob Garrett of the Dallas Morning News.

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