AUSTIN - As part of the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19, Governor Greg Abbott today announced the deployment of three National Guard Joint Task Force Brigades. The 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and the 176th Engineer Brigade will operate ten general support units located throughout the state.
"Whether it’s overseas combat, major storms, or deadly viruses, the Texas National Guard is always quick to defend and serve their fellow Texans," said Governor Abbott. "Texans can be grateful that these troops are now standing their post alongside healthcare professionals and first responders on the front lines of this crisis."
The Governor has ordered an initial focus on two critical missions that will directly benefit from Texas National Guard’s unparalleled logistics capabilities, medical expertise, communications support, infrastructure maintenance, and transportation assets: assisting drive through testing sites and bolstering the state’s healthcare infrastructure.
Over the past week, Guard members have practiced erecting and running drive through testing site locations alongside medical staff to ensure a well-coordinated process that allows Texans to access COVID-19 screenings in a safe, efficient way that also limits contact with potentially infected members of the public.
The Guard is also rolling out support for the state’s healthcare infrastructure with medical providers, equipment, and supplies needed to provide access to care. As the response advances, Guardsmen will continue working with partners at the local, state, and national levels to identify and develop additional locations that can be converted to healthcare facilities.
"We are citizen soldiers and we find our highest calling in serving our fellow citizens, no matter where duty calls us," said Major General Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas and commander of the Texas National Guard. "This will be no easy task but we have faced difficult times before. With the commitment of our soldiers and support of the community we will show the world that we are Texas strong and Texas proud, and together we will overcome this challenge."
Governor Abbott also stressed that these taskings will not diminish the Guard’s ability to meet operational commitments including the Texas border mission and overseas deployments.
To ensure responding Guard members are healthy, trained medical staff will be attached to each unit and provide screenings before each Guard member is approved for the mission. Any Guard member showing signs of illness will receive treatment and the needed resources to recover while following all requirements outlined by the CDC. This measure will keep responding units healthy and reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.
AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott today waived certain Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) regulations to preserve and extend child care capacity for front line workers. These waivers will allow TWC the flexibility to respond to child care needs, and are part of the Governor's work through the Supply Chain Strike Force to strengthen child care infrastructure for critical workers during the COVID-19 response. These waivers ensure that families using child care subsidized through TWC will not lose their slots during this interim period while the state battles COVID-19, and it secures payment to child care providers throughout this time.
"Through these waivers, TWC will be able to better respond to the child care needs of our front line workers in Texas," said Governor Abbott. "We remain committed to working with TWC and other state entities to ensure Texans serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 response have the support they need."
Children within TWC's child care services program will be able to accrue absences due to COVID-19 without impacting ongoing eligibility or provider reimbursements. TWC will also be able to waive parent share of cost requirements and direct local workforce development boards to make supplemental emergency payments to child care programs to offset payments lost due to COVID-19. Additionally, these waivers will allow TWC to temporarily broaden the definition of "protective services" to include children of workers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.
AUSTIN - 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.”
AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott today held a press conference at the State Capitol where he issued an Executive Order mandating a self-quarantine of 14 days for individuals traveling to Texas as their final destination through an airport from the Tri-State Area of New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut as well as the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. This Executive Order is consistent with the guidance of Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and will be enforced by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). During this period, a quarantined person shall not allow visitors into or out of the designated quarantine location, other than a physician or healthcare provider, and cannot visit any public spaces. These mandatory self-quarantines will last a period of 14 days or for the duration of a person’s presence in Texas, whichever is shorter.
"The State of Texas continues to act upon the recommendations of top state, federal, and local health experts as we implement a comprehensive strategy to limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Abbott. "The New York Tri-State Area and the City of New Orleans have become major centers of this pandemic, and it is vital that we take necessary precautions to prevent additional exposure that could originate from people traveling from these areas to Texas. This Executive Order is another important measure we are taking to protect the health and safety of Texans, and we will continue to take any action necessary to mitigate exposure to COVID-19 in our state."
Those entering Texas as their final destination from the designated areas will use a form from DPS to designate their quarantine location. DPS special agents will conduct unannounced visits to designated quarantine locations to verify compliance. Failure to comply with this order is considered a criminal offense that is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
This order to self-quarantine shall not apply to people traveling in connection with military service, emergency response, health response, or critical-infrastructure functions, as may be determined by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). This Executive Order will remain in effect and in full force until modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the Governor.
The Governor was joined for the press conference by Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, and TDEM Chief Nim Kidd.
AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott today announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has submitted a Section 1135 Medicaid Waiver to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). If approved, this would grant Texas flexibility in administering Medicaid while the state continues to respond to COVID-19.
"The flexibilities we are requesting will help ensure Texans on Medicaid continue to have their routine needs met, even as the state responds to COVID-19," said Governor Abbott. "I ask CMS to grant this waiver so that we can expand care capacity for Texans who utilize services through Medicaid."
If approved, the federal flexibilities would include:
HHSC will also be seeking additional regulatory flexibilities through the Section 1135 Medicaid waiver related to federal requirements for long-term care providers, intermediate care facilities, home and community-based services programs, and hospitals.
If granted, this Section 1135 Medicaid waiver flexibilities would remain in place for as long as necessary during the public health emergency.
AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott today announced his request for access to interest-free federal loans (known as Title XII funds) to pay unemployment claims and the accelerated release of funds from the Texas account of the federal Unemployment Trust Fund. Title XII is a federal process that allows states to receives advances (loans) from the federal government to continue to cover Unemployment Benefit payments without disruption.
In a request letter to Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, Governor Abbott authorized the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to officially request access to these additional funds.
“As job loss and other economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic grow, we are committed to drawing upon all available resources to help Texas hardest hit by the crisis,” said Governor Abbott. “With claims on the rise, our current balance of unemployment funds is projected to run out by the end of next month, so we must accelerate the delivery of necessary dollars.”
Department of Labor approval would allow Texas to apply for federal loans that would be interest-free through the end of the current calendar year. In the past, TWC has taken such loans then issued bonds to pay them off. In every case, the agency has never missed making a payment to an eligible claimant.
“The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is committed to ensuring all Texans who are eligible receive unemployment funds,” said Bryan Daniel, chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission. “This approach, which has served Texas well during hurricane recovery and the recession of 2008, should do so again.”
AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott today announced that Texas has received a $16.2 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Community Living (ACL) to help communities provide meals for older adults.
The grant was part of a $250 million dollar outlay authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 18, 2020. Originally created by the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965, these programs provide meals to more than 2.4 million older adults nationwide each year, both through home delivery and in places like community centers.
“This grant is especially timely given the disproportionately high toll that COVID-19 has been taking on seniors around the world,” said Governor Abbott. “As social distancing measures increasingly and appropriately limit people’s social mobility, it is imperative that alternate means for feeding our state’s elderly like Meals on Wheels receive additional resources to handle the growing need.”
Texas will receive its proportional grant, $16,205,796, second only to California ($25 million) and Florida ($18 million) this week for further distribution to local meal providers.
Older adults who need assistance can contact the Eldercare Locator to find services available in their community. The Eldercare Locator can be reached at 1-800-677-1116 or https://eldercare.acl.gov/.
AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott has waived certain regulations from the Texas Board of Nursing regarding licensing renewal and subsequent fees for nurses in Texas. The Governor's waiver authorizes a six-month grace period for nurses with expired licenses. This grace period will allow nurses who are otherwise in good standing to continue practicing and will give them additional time to renew their license without added fees and penalties.
"Nurses are essential to protecting the public health and safety of our communities as we combat the COVID-19 virus,” said Governor Abbott. "With these temporary waivers, nurses in Texas can continue caring for patients without worrying about potential delays or barriers imposed by the licensing renewal process. We are grateful for the nurses serving throughout our state, and Texas are committed to ensuring they have the resources and support they need to do their jobs as we face this public health emergency."
AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today has temporarily waived certain hospital licensing rules and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has adopted an emergency rule to meet Texas’ need for additional hospital capacity while the state responds to COVID-19. These actions allow for certain facilities that have pending licenses or facilities that have been closed for no more than 36 months to come online under existing hospital building licenses. These facilities will be administered and operated by hospitals with existing licenses. The waivers also remove certain mileage restrictions which will allow hospitals to operate additional facilities that are more than 30 miles away from the main licensed hospital.
“One of our top objectives is to ensure that COVID-19 patients in Texas who need a hospital bed will have access to a bed,” said Governor Abbott. “There are healthcare facilities across the state that have either recently closed or have yet to receive a license, but are otherwise ideal locations to aid in our COVID-19 response. By waiving these rules, we can quickly bring many of these facilities online to help Texas communities maximize their hospital capacity and provide care to Texans in need.”
Additionally, Governor Abbott has directed HHSC to waive certain regulatory requirements regarding facility license renewals. These waivers will allow general, special, and psychiatric hospitals, free-standing emergency medical facilities, and end-stage renal facilities to renew their license without submitting a fire marshal's report. The facilities will still be required to update their records at a later date.
AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today released a statement thanking President Trump for issuing a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Texas. This announcement comes after the Governor requested the declaration—citing the need for additional federal assistance to save lives, to protect property, public health, and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of COVID-19.
“Texas is aggressively pursuing and implementing all necessary strategies to limit the impact of COVID-19, and I thank President Trump for his swift action to issue a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “The President’s declaration opens up new sources of funding for individual and public assistance that will help Texas respond to this public health emergency and protect public health and safety.”
AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott today held a press conference to provide an update on incoming supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other resources to aid Texas’ response to COVID-19. The Governor announced that the newly established Supply Chain Strike Force has already secured more than $83 million of purchase orders for essential supplies. Additionally, the Governor announced that the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) will begin receiving 100,000 masks per day by the end of this week and the Supply Chain Strike Force will begin receiving an additional 100,000 masks per day by the end of next week—meaning the State of Texas will soon be receiving more than one million masks per week.
The Governor also announced the launch of an online portal run by the Supply Chain Strike Force to streamline the process and validation of leads for more supplies. The portal, accessible through www.texas.gov, will serve as an intake process for those wanting to provide valid leads on PPE and donations. The portal also serves as a portal for those wanting to donate supplies, services, or your time—including medical professionals and nurses looking to volunteer.
“The State of Texas is rapidly accelerating the purchasing and delivery of essential personal protection equipment and other supplies to aid in our COVID-19 response,” said Governor Abbott. “The Supply Chain Strike Force is working in concert with the Texas Division of Emergency Management to secure these vital resources and to swiftly distribute them to medical professionals, hospitals, and first responders in communities throughout the state. We thank all those who have already offered donations to meet our supply needs. I urge all Texans who would like to donate essential supplies and all medical professionals who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise to visit www.texas.gov to find out how they can help.”
The Governor also issued an Executive Order to better track both hospital bed capacity and COVID-19 test results across the state. The Executive Order requires all hospitals, excluding psychiatric hospitals, to submit daily reports on hospital bed capacity to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) who will then share this information with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The order also requires every public or private entity utilizing FDA-approved COVID-19 tests to submit daily reports of all results to the local health department and DSHS who will then share this information with the CDC.
The Governor was joined at the press conference by:
AUSTIN - Governor Greg Abbott today signed an Executive Order to expand hospital bed capacity as the state responds to the COVID-19 virus. These actions will reinforce Texas' health care capabilities and provide additional space for hospitals to provide care to COVID-19 patients. Under this order, the Governor directed all licensed health care professionals and facilities 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. This does not apply to any procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster.
The Governor also suspended certain regulations as requested by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to allow for increased occupancy of hospital rooms — meaning hospitals will be able to treat more than one patient in a patient room, thus increasing their ability to care for the growing number of COVID-19 patients.
Additionally, the Governor announced the creation of a temporary Supply Chain Strike Force — immediately naming Keith Miears, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Procurement at Dell Technologies, to serve as Supply Chain Director for the state of Texas. Miears will be supported by former State Representative John Zerwas, MD, who will assist with hospital relations and preparedness, Clint Harp, Vice President of Transmission Strategic Services for the Lower Colorado River Authority, who will assist with asset research and procurement, and Elaine Mendoza, Chair of the A&M Board of Regents, who will assist with statewide child care infrastructure for critical workers.
The Supply Chain Strike Force will be tasked with guiding collaboration between the public and private sectors to ensure health care facilities have the supplies and resources they need to respond to COVID-19. In addition to working with the federal government and businesses to secure necessary personal protective equipment, the team will work to ensure day-to-day resources (including food) are available for Texas’ medical personnel, first responders and those who have contracted COVID-19.
"We have seen how this virus has progressed in other states and nations, and it is vital that Texas stays ahead of the curve as the situation develops here," said Governor Abbott. "Patient care capacity is essential during this time, which is why the state of Texas is taking action to increase hospital bed capacity, provide additional space for medical personnel to care for patients, and ensure that healthcare facilities have the supplies needed to respond to COVID-19. Along with this Executive Order, the Supply Chain Strike Force will play a crucial role in addressing these needs by helping to secure and expedite the distribution of resources across the state. These are unprecedented times, and Texas will continue to take robust action to protect our communities and support those serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 response."
The Governor's Executive Order takes effect immediately, and remains in effect and in full force until 11:59 p.m. on April 21, 2020, unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the Governor.