AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas House committee on public health met with health experts Tuesday to discuss the state's response to the coronavirus.
As of Tuesday morning, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services confirmed at least 13 cases in the state. While public health departments work to identify who those patients came in contact with, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and other agencies are working to prepare and limit the spread.
"Texas hospitals are doing quite well; they do have some concerns about the supply chain of certain types of information,” said Texas DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt. “We hope that through conservation of the inventories they have and also looking very carefully at what the indications are for certain types of personal protective equipment."
Fears over the coronavirus has people stocking up on face masks, making it difficult for health professionals to care for sick patients. TDEM Chief Nim Kidd said if someone is healthy, do not wear a mask. The mask will not prevent someone from contracting the virus.
"It's not healthy it creates a false sense of security, and in some cases, I think it adds to the panic when you see somebody wearing the masks," Kidd said.
Legislators expressed concerns over state resources and the ability to test for the coronavirus. Several labs are opening up, Hellerstedt said there is an adequate amount of tests available for people suspected of the virus but only for those who have symptoms and meet the CDC criteria.
"It's not something that is in every doctor's office and we don't anticipate that it will be that widely available for a good while,” said Hellerstedt. “We have to be conservative, we have to be smart about how we use that testing capacity. We have to slow down the progression of the disease for the very purpose that it does not overwhelm the capacity we have out there to provide care and do testing,"
Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of Insurance is asking health insurance providers to waive costs associated with the coronavirus everything from testing to telemedicine. Dr. Hellerstedt said health care professionals view the tests as a means of surveillance, monitoring where the virus is and how many people have it.
Questions as to what steps the state will take in response to a potential outbreak wasn't immediately answered. Health officials are focused on slowing down a "community-wide" spread and will continue to work as the situation develops.