coronavirus

Abbott Requests Help From Hospitals, Out-of-State Healthcare Workers as Virus Surges

Gov. Greg Abbott said the state would increase vaccine availability, but did not call on Texans to wear face masks

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What to Know

  • Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas will use staffing agencies to find medical personnel from out-of-state to assist with the COVID-19 surge
  • He asked hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective surgeries to create more space for coronavirus patients
  • Texas will increase vaccine availability statewide

Texas will ask healthcare workers from other states to assist with its surge in COVID-19 cases and request hospitals voluntarily postpone elective surgeries to create more space for coronavirus patients, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Monday.

Additionally, the Texas Department of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services will open more COVID-19 antibody transfusion centers in the state. There, patients who test positive for the coronavirus but do not need hospitalization can be treated with therapeutic drugs.

Abbott waited until the third paragraph of his order to encourage Texans to get vaccinated, and never mentioned the use of face masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus and its variants.

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The governor said the aforementioned agencies would increase vaccine availability across the state. The state has a website set up where residents can go to find a vaccine.

The TDEM also has a mobile vaccine program, which can be reached here or by calling 844-90-TEXAS and selecting Option 3. Texans who are homebound can call the same number and select Option 1 to request a shot at their home.

"The state of Texas is taking action to combat the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and ensure that our hospitals and communities have the resources and support they need to mitigate the virus," Abbott said in a written statement. "Texans can help bolster our efforts by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and it is our best defense against this virus. Texans can visit covidvaccine.texas.gov to find a COVID-19 vaccine provider near them."

The governor is taking action short of lifting his emergency order banning county and local government entities from requiring the wearing of masks and social distancing to lower the COVID-19 risk. The Republican has said repeatedly that Texans have the information and intelligence to make their own decisions on what steps to take to protect their health and the health of those around them.

The seven-day average of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Texas has been above 10,000 for three consecutive days. Prior to Saturday, the average had not reached 10,000 or more since Feb. 8.

Similarly, 9,462 patients were hospitalized with the coronavirus Monday, the most since Feb. 6.

Last summer, when new cases were averaging around 3,500 per day and hospitalizations were around 3,400 statewide, Abbott said "COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas and it must be corralled."

"Wearing a mask will help us to keep Texas open," Abbott said in June 2020. "Not taking action to slow the spread will cause COVID to spread even worse, risking people's lives … our goal is to keep Texans out of hospitals and reduce the number of Texans who test positive."

President of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council Stephen Love issued the following statement Monday evening.

"The Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council thanks Governor Abbott for instructing DSHS to contract with much needed supplement staffing. We also appreciate the action for TDEM and DSHS to provide additional antibody infusion centers and to increase vaccine availability throughout the state. We are blessed in North Texas with excellent hospital executives who will manage patient flow, acuity of patients and postpone or delay specific procedures when needed to maximize use of capacity and staff to render the best care for the residents of North Texas."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last month that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors in places with high COVID-19 transmission rates. The agency also recommended kids wear masks in schools this fall.

Meanwhile, the Dallas and Austin school districts announced Monday that they would require students and staff to wear face masks. The Houston school district already announced a mask mandate for its students and staff later this week if its board approves.

Hospital officials in Houston said last week that area hospitals with beds had insufficient numbers of nurses to serve them.

Abbott also announced about $267 million in emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food benefits for August. That was on top of the $3.9 billion in benefits previously allocated since April 2020.

The governor is taking action short of lifting his emergency order banning county and local government entities from requiring the wearing of masks and social distancing to lower the COVID-19 risk. Abbott has said repeatedly that Texans have the information and intelligence to make their own decisions on what steps to take to protect their health and the health of those around them.

Also Monday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins filed a lawsuit asking a judge to strike down Abbott’s mask mandate ban.

One of Houston’s two county-owned hospitals was pitching tents to accommodate its COVID-19 overflow. Harris Health System and Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in northeastern Houston added nearly 2,000 square feet of medical tents in the hope of taking control of the anticipated increase in patient volume and keep staff and non-COVID-19 patients safe.

Last week, Houston area officials said the wave of delta variant infections so strained the area’s hospitals that some patients had to be transferred out of the city, with one being sent to North Dakota.

In Dallas, the superintendent of the state’s second-largest public school system announced Monday that the district would require masks and social distancing from Tuesday, Abbott’s ban notwithstanding.

At a news conference, Dallas schools Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said the school district’s legal advisors assured that Abbott’s order does not limit the district’s rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students.

Austin schools announced their mask requirement late Monday.

The superintendent of the Houston school district, the state’s largest, announced last week that the district would require masks and social distancing in the district’s schools effective upon district board approval Thursday. A group of parents sued the Houston Independent School District over the weekend, challenging the requirements.

Copyright NBC 5 News and The Associated Press
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