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Gov. Abbott issues order that suspends elective surgeries in Harris, Bexar, Dallas, Travis counties

All hospitals in these counties are directed to postpone all surgeries & procedures that aren't immediately necessary to keep beds available for COVID-19 patients.

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott today issued an executive order to ensure hospital bed availability for COVID-19 patients as Texas faces an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. 

The governor’s order suspends elective surgeries at hospitals in Harris, Bexar, Dallas and Travis counties. 

Under this order, the governor directs all hospitals in these counties 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."

Through proclamation, the governor can add or subtract from the list of counties included in the executive order to address surges in hospitalizations that may arise in other parts of the state.

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On Wednesday, Abbott conceded that Texas is facing a "massive outbreak" of COVID-19

“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. “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. 

The Texas Medical Center in Houston reached 100-percent capacity Thursday  and could pass emergency surge capacity in two weeks if the current pace continues, according to projections on the TMC website.

But CEOs from four Medical Center hospitals downplayed those numbers in a news conference Thursday.

"It is completely normal for us to have ICU capacities that run in the 80s and 90s," Houston Methodist CEO Dr. Marc Boom said. "That's how all hospitals operate." 

However, earlier this week, Dr. Boom said hospitals are "nearing a tipping point" with COVID cases tripling since Memorial Day.

Texas Nurses Association spokesperson issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:

“While TNA agrees that Gov. Abbott’s decision was necessary, the cancellation of elective surgeries will have a major financial impact on health care organizations, which are still trying to recover from the shutdown in March. We remain concerned about the downstream impact this may have on nurses, including furloughs and layoffs. We urge health care organizations to cross train procedural and perioperative nursing staff who otherwise might be furloughed during this time. All nurses can contribute to patient care during this crisis.”

The Texas Hospital Association issued the following statement regarding the executive order:

"Texas hospitals recognize and appreciate today’s efforts to further protect the people of Texas. Our hospitals will continue to do their part on the frontlines to provide medical care and space for COVID-19 patients. We are committed to helping people get healthy and stay healthy, and we want everyone to keep working together to stop the spread of disease and curb the rising case counts.

"We all have the power to change the course of COVID-19 by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, washing hands and staying home when possible. Texas hospitals will continue to ask Texans to exercise precautions as they adjust their patient flow patterns in response to COVID-19."

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