Gov. Abbott waives some regulations on hospitals to aid treatment of COVID-19

Hannah Williford

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued two executive orders from the State Capitol on Sunday to increase hospital capabilities to help manage the influx of coronavirus patients.

Abbott ordered health care professionals to postpone all surgeries that are not immediately necessary and changed the regulations for hospital rooms to allow more than one patient to be treated per room.

Abbott also waived regulations to increase the amount of nurses eligible to assist in hospitals by temporarily permitting graduate nurses who have not yet taken their licensing exam and inactive or retired nurses to practice.

“Together, these orders will free up countless hospital beds across the state of Texas,” Abbott said.

Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner, and Nim Kidd, Texas Division of Emergency Management chief, joined Abbott at the conference.

There have been 334 confirmed positive cases of the new coronavirus in Texas and six deaths as of Sunday, Abbott said. In total, 8,700 people have been tested, Abbott said.

Texas is working to expand testing capacity, and it is important to continue preventative measures, Hellerstedt said.

“It is very clear that we’re in the early stages of community spread of COVID-19 in certain communities in Texas,” Hellerstedt said.

Abbott said he would not be issuing an executive order for a statewide shelter in place at this time because many counties in Texas have not yet had confirmed cases, but said that he applauds local officials who take action in communities with the community spread of COVID-19.

“I will always remain flexible and on a moment’s notice, be able to take whatever strategies are needed at a statewide level to ensure that we’re doing all we can to combat the expansion of COVID-19,” Abbott said.

Abbott also appointed Keith Miears, senior vice president of worldwide procurement at Dell Technologies, and Dr. John Zerwas, UT System executive vice chancellor for health affairs, on Sunday to organize hospitals for extra beds and staff. Abbott also named Elaine Mendoza, Texas A&M System Board of Regents chair, in charge of daycare needs of health care workers.