Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that elective surgeries in four South Texas counties would come to a halt as hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19 increased. This is in addition to four other counties, including Dallas, where elective surgeries have temporarily stopped.
The suspension of elective surgeries includes Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces and Webb counties. That's on top of Harris, Bexar, Travis and Dallas counties, which Abbott announced Friday.
The goal is to make more room for COVID-19 patients. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, on Tuesday around 6,533 Texans had been hospitalized for COVID-19, which was another record-breaking number.
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"As these counties experience a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are committed to working alongside hospitals to help ensure that every COVID-19 patient who needs a bed will have access to one," Abbott said in a statement. "We are constantly monitoring the data at the local level and will continue to take precautionary action where it is necessary. I want to remind all Texans that each of us have a responsibility to help slow the spread of this virus, and I urge everyone to wear a mask, wash their hands regularly, practice social distancing and stay home if possible."
In March, when the epidemic started, the governor mandated the same plan in order to preserve bed capacity.
“Each community had to deal with that in a little different time frame, but at that time as things started to return to normal, it was anticipated that if there was a resurgence, we may have to go back to this as a stratagem. and I think that’s what’s occurring in Texas right now," said Dr. David Hoyt, the executive director of the American College of Surgeons, which is a scientific and educational association for surgeons.
Hoyt said the strategy worked and allowed hospitals to take care of COVID-19 patients.
"The impact on surgeons is that many of them were redeployed to help out in the intensive care unit. Surgeons are trained to care for intensive care unit patients and surgeons step up, that’s what they do," Hoyt said. "They help become part of the organization structure responding to this, they provide care themselves, support the nurses, etcetera."
He said surgeons took a real hit in terms of serving their patients, getting behind schedule and a loss in finances.
"Surgeons have taken a large economic hit just like everybody else has because they depend on that practice revenue to run their offices, they had to cut their salaries, they’ve had to in some cases, furlough people or consider that. It has had a substantial effect just like it has in every other aspect of the economy," Hoyt said.
He said during the suspension of elective surgeries, some surgeons have helped on the frontlines.
"I'm very close in touch with surgeons throughout the country, not just leaders but people that are down there in the trenches caring for patients," Hoyt said. "Virtually every story is one of how surgeons have stepped up, they have made themselves available to help, they have been concerned certainly about the economics, but have not let that get in the way and are contributing."
He said many surgeons have been involved in helping organize their hospital’s response, have participated in clinical work and helped care for COVID-19 patients in the hospital by providing care in the ICU.
"By definition, they’re very committed to patient care in general, so they always kind of roll up their sleeves and see how they can help and that’s what they’ve done across the country during these last three months and I’m sure they’ll do the same thing over the next few weeks in Texas," Hoyt said.
Abbott's new mandate states immediate and medically necessary surgeries to correct a serious medical condition or save a patient's life are exempt.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.