AUSTIN, Texas - On Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott explained how Texas is preparing for the possible spread of the coronavirus or COVID-19. The governor said he has been in communication with Vice President Mike Pence about Texas' response plans.
“We're preparing for all possible contingencies. DSHS is surveying varying levels of patient care capacity around the state to contingency plan for a scenario if the state has a community spread of COVID-19. I cannot emphasize enough that has not happened. Our goal is to make sure we're prepared if something like that were to happen,” said Abbott.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said so far Texas has isolated 10 people who tested positive for COVID-19. All of them landed at Joint Base San Antonio after evacuating China or the affected Diamond Princess cruise ship.
“All of those individuals who have tested positive are in isolation off the base where they are in various stages of recovery from their illness,” said Rear Admiral Dr. Nancy Knight with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are another 145 people from those flights or ship that the CDC is monitoring for any symptoms at Lackland Air Force Base.
The governor said the Department of State Health Services is now preparing state labs to administer tests for the virus. However, it's actually local health agencies that are monitoring any possible new patients.
“Returning travelers contact their local health department daily to report their temperature and any other symptoms. DSHS works directly with the CDC lab to identify persons who should be tested and coordinates with the CDC when test results are reported back to the state,” Abbott said.
Austin Public Health said they currently receive three manifests per day from the CDC and Texas DSHS identifying people in Travis County who recently traveled to China. Anyone identified is given what's called a "control order" requiring they minimize interaction with others for 14 days. However, so far Austin Public Health said no one has tested positive for the virus in Travis County.
“There's a tremendous amount of work that all these state agencies, the state health leaders and emergency response leaders, have put in for well over a month now to be extremely well organized, but they did not start from the beginning a month ago. They built upon knowledge gained responding to the Ebola challenge as well as the H1N1 challenge. So they come with the batteries included when it comes to being able to respond to this,” said Abbott.
The governor said the Texas Center for Infectious Disease is equipped with about 20 rooms that are sealed off from the rest of the facility to care for any coronavirus patients. He encourages anyone who believes they have symptoms of the virus or are returning from China to contact the health department. Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.