Gov. Abbott outlines strategy to care for COVID-19 patients 'if every bed in the hospital is taken'

Gov. Greg Abbott said although the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Texas has dramatically increased over the last week, he feels confident our medical system is ready for it. 

The governor said he spoke to CEOs of major hospitals Tuesday to identify how many beds and respirators are available in case of a massive increase in critical care patients. 

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“Right now, our city and county are at a critical point and time,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for the City of Austin and Travis County.  

With drive-thru testing locations operating in the Austin area, more cases of COVID-19 have been identified. Austin Public Health said they expect to get 1,000 more test kits by the end of this week, so they can open additional community testing centers. 

“We're expecting to increase our capacity very soon, this week, to do more tests, but we still do not have enough to test everybody who wants to get tested,” Escott said.  

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Those who will get tested include people who are hospitalized, those who live in a communal facility, health care workers, and anyone with a higher risk for complications from the disease. 

“It's important to remember that for the vast majority of individuals who get this illness it is a mild illness. 80 percent are mild cases and the fact that they can't get tested is not going to be critical for most people,” said Escott.    

Abbott said he expects the state to be able to test 10,000 people per week by the end of this week. He realizes that the number of people in need of medical care will continue to climb. That's why he held a conference call with hospital officials to make sure they are ready. 

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“For those who are demonstrating signs where they need advanced medical care, we want to make sure that we are going to be able to provide that medical care to those patients even if every bed in the hospital is taken,” Abbott said. 

If necessary, Abbott said the state has a strategy to open temporary care facilities like medical tents, recently closed hospitals or rehab centers to help care for additional patients. There is also a plan for those who don’t need to be in a hospital facility. 

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“For people who test positive, who need to be in isolation, but don't need critical care, we are looking at the possibility of using hotels and motels in various regions across the entire State of Texas,” said Abbott. 

There is also a plan to provide staffing for temporary care locations. 

“We need nurses, we need doctors, we need other medical health care providers who can provide the personnel needed for these entities. So, we talked about several strategies in which we can add to those numbers,” Abbott said. 

The governor said he expects more community testing locations to open at hospitals, public health facilities, and even places like CVS or Walmart in the coming weeks.