Gov. Abbott Pauses Additional Reopening

As Texas experiences a continuous surge in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations at the state and local level, the influx of information can be a lot to keep up with. Here’s what you need to know today:

  • Gov. Abbott announces a temporary pause of additional reopening phases;
  • Abbott issues executive order expanding hospital capacity;
  • Dallas County reports ­­403 ­­­­­­new cases, six more deaths;
  • New poll shows broad consensus across North Texas for wearing masks.
Governor Abbott Announces Temporary Pause Of Additional Reopening Phases

As Texas responds to the recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, further reopening phases will be put on a temporary hold, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Thursday. 

Businesses that opened in previous phases will be allowed to continue operation, should they continue to adhere to the designated occupancy levels and minimum standard health protocols provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Abbott said that officials are focused on strategies that will slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, but will still allow residents to work.

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” Abbott said. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”

Abbott urged Texans to slow the spread of the coronavirus by wearing masks, washing hands and socially distancing themselves from others.

“The more that we all follow these guidelines, the safer our state will be and the more we can open up Texas for business,” Abbott said.

Gov. Abbott Issues Executive Order Expanding Hospital Capacity

In an effort to ensure hospital bed availability for COVID-19 patients, elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties have been suspended, according to an executive order issued by Abbott.

The order directs these hospitals “to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.”

The order also allows Abbott to add or subtract counties from those included on the list in order to address increasing hospitalizations in other areas on a situational basis.

“As Texas faces a rise in COVID-19 cases, we are focused on both slowing the spread of this virus and maintaining sufficient hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients,” Abbott said in the statement. “These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and today’s action is a precautionary step to help ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients. As we work to contain this virus, I urge all Texans to do their part to help contain the spread by washing their hands regularly, wearing a mask, and practicing social distancing.”

Additionally, hospitals that don’t obey the order are subject to a $1,000 fine, according to D Magazine.

In response to the order, Medical City Healthcare released a statement that said they meet Abbott’s requirements, and that their hospitals have the bed capacity, supplies, and equipment necessary to serve patients. “Beyond our hospitals, we also have alternate settings for surgeries, including surgery centers and specialty hospitals, which also factors into our decision to schedule a surgery,” it read.

“We have well established protocols in place to care for patients with infectious diseases,” the statement said. “Our responsibility during this pandemic includes balancing our readiness to care for patients with COVID-19 while continuing to make sure the many other patients who depend on our hospitals receive needed and timely care.”

The order comes after Abbott said that hospital capacity was “abundant” and that mandating masks was not the right approach to containing the disease, D Magazine reports. A week later, Abbott said that the outbreak was “rampant,” asking Texans to take individual responsibility to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but he also allowed local officials to limit gatherings to no more than 100 people. Will Maddox and Paige Walters have more over at D Magazine.

Dallas County Reports ­­403 ­­­­­­new cases, six more deaths

Dallas County Health and Human Services reported 403 new positive COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths June 25. This brings the total number of cases in Dallas County up to 18,538, with 334 total deaths. 

Of the six reported deaths, five had been previously hospitalized — a man in his 60s, a woman in her 70s, a man in his 70s, a man in his 80s, and a woman in her 80s. All were Dallas residents and did not have any underlying, high-risk health conditions.

One individual, a man in his 80s, was a resident of a long-term care facility in Dallas. He died in the facility and had underlying health conditions. Of the 334 total deaths reported to date, over a third have been associated with long-term care facilities.

During a 24-hour period, local experts have seen another increase in patients to 556 total cases in a hospital or acute care setting. In Dallas County, the number of coronavirus-like symptom-related emergency room visits was 701 over a 24-hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday.

This “represent[s] nearly 30 percent of all visits according to information reported to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council. These numbers reflect an ongoing increase and impact on our acute care facilities,” the report said.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson wrote in a Tweet that the current bed capacity is 6,083, with 4,223 beds, or 69%, occupied. The total number of ICU beds is 942, with 682, or 72% occupied. There are a total of 959 ventilators, with 336, or 35%, currently in use.

However, in an additional Tweet, Johnson said that Dallas County and the DFW Hospital Council said that “they do not want to stand up the @KBHCCDallas pop-up hospital at this time” and that they think they will be able to handle a surge in COVID-19 hospitalization with their current medical facilities.

In regard to the statistics of those being hospitalized, health officials also said that there is an increasing proportion of cases in Dallas County among young adults aged 18 to 39, and that more than half of the cases reported since June 1 have been in this age range.

“Of cases requiring hospitalization, more than two-thirds have been under 65 years of age, and about half do not have any high-risk chronic health conditions,” officials report. “Diabetes has been an underlying high-risk health condition reported in about a third of all hospitalized patients with COVID-19.”

18 separate childcare facilities in Dallas County also have confirmed over 31 coronavirus cases in children and staff, with family members of affected children also reporting associated illnesses.

“Today’s numbers continue the trend of increasing hospitalizations and new COVID-19 positive cases,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “Additionally, we are beginning to see more spread amongst children in daycare and young people who attend bars or work in the service industries.”

Of those requiring hospitalization that reported employment, 80 percent “have been critical infrastructure workers, with a broad range of affected occupational sectors, including: healthcare, transportation, food and agriculture, public works, finance, communications, clergy, first responders and other essential functions.”

Additionally, the report said that the age-adjusted rates of confirmed COVID-19 cases in non-hospitalized patients have been highest among Hispanic people. “Over 60 percent of overall COVID-19 cases to date have been Hispanic,” read the report, which also includes the rate of cases among Black, White and Asian people.

Jenkins also added that Gov. Abbott’s decision to stop elective surgeries is a necessary move, as it will increase hospital capacity for the new wave of COVID-19 cases. He said that when Abbott took over the COVID-19 response in May, he restricted local officials’ ability to either keep their previous ordinances in place or work with businesses and healthcare facilities to create new ones. 

“At this point with the speed of the spread, it would be most beneficial if the Governor would act on a regional or statewide basis to quickly follow the advice of the top doctors on infectious disease, epidemiology, and public health in Harris, Dallas, Bexar and Travis Counties,” Jenkins said. “Barring that, restoring the traditional powers of local leaders to deal with emergencies would allow us more tools to try to reverse this disturbing trend.”

Jenkins urged surrounding counties to put a requirement on businesses to require wearing face masks and implored Abbott to make the requirement a state-wide rule.

“I’m also calling on the Governor to make the recommendations in the Open Texas documents into requirements, if not statewide, then at least for the counties and regions like DFW and the Harris County metro area,” he said, also recommending that Texans avoid places where masking cannot be totally accomplished.

New Poll Shows Broad Consensus Across North Texas for Wearing Masks

A new poll reported broad support for wearing masks to combat COVID-19, according to non-partisan, nonprofit group Texas 2036. More than six out of 10 respondents said wearing masks and social distancing should be required until a vaccine is widely available.

The poll was commissioned in early June, before Texas saw record numbers of hospitalizations and coronavirus cases, and surveyed 1,000 residents across 13 counties in North Texas. 

“Overwhelming numbers of North Texans said they believe wearing masks shows respect for first responders, health care workers, friends and family,” a statement said.

Texas 2036 also confirmed through the survey that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on employment in the region. The percentage of full-time Texan workers employed dropped to 48% this month compared to 60% before the pandemic hit. Forty percent of respondents also said that since the pandemic began, they or someone in their household was working less than they wanted.

Additionally, 45% of respondents said that they think the worst is yet to come for their community, while 37% said the worst is behind them. In regard to the United States as a whole, 50% of respondents said that they believe the worst is yet to come, with 33% in disagreement.

Texas 2036 reported that the responses to each of those questions “broke down along partisan lines, with Democrats and independents more likely than Republicans to say the pandemic is still getting worse.”

“The poll also reflects the growing concerns of many North Texans about the speed with which state and local governments are lifting restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” the statement reads. 

Overall, the poll highlighted issues that government officials are currently faced with regarding health concerns and economic struggles.

“The biggest takeaway is how do we break the partisan divisiveness and find common solutions,” said Tom Luce, founder and chairman of Texas 2036. “This poll demonstrates that there are some common messages that cut across [society], whether you’ve got health concerns or economic concerns. People have legitimate health concerns and legitimate economic concerns — and the messaging about the reason to wear a mask was very powerful.”

To learn more and download a copy of the report, click here.

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