AUSTIN, Texas – With a record 10,002 coronavirus patients in Texas hospitals Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott again warned that he expects hospitalizations and deaths to continue to rise.
In a series of television interviews Friday, Abbott urged Texans to follow his statewide mask order and said more restrictions will be needed if it’s ignored.
“We will not have to lock down if people follow the simple requirement of wearing a face mask,” Abbott said in an interview with KSAT.
Abbott extended his coronavirus-related disaster declaration for all Texas counties Friday, hours before state health officials reported 95 new COVID-19 deaths and a hospitalization record for the 12th consecutive day.
The Texas Department of State Health Services also reported 9,765 new cases of the coronavirus.
Texas is in the midst of its deadliest week of the pandemic, with three straight days of roughly 100 new fatalities. The statewide death toll reached 3,013 fatalities Friday.
One day earlier, state health officials reported a record 105 new fatalities, the first time the daily death toll for the coronavirus reached triple digits in Texas.
In an interview with KLBK, Abbott said he expects the death toll to worsen as new cases rise. Deaths are a lagging indicator because they come weeks after a person initially tests positive.
“Things will get worse,” Abbott warned. “The deaths that we’re seeing announced today and yesterday – which are now over 100 – those are people who likely contracted COVID-19 in late May.”
Abbott has extended his COVID-19 disaster declaration five times, which aims to secure more resources for the state to fight the pandemic.
“Extending this Disaster Declaration helps ensure that Texas has the resources and flexibility needed to effectively respond to COVID-19,” Abbott said in a statement. “To further mitigate the spread of the virus and overcome this challenge, Texans should continue to do their part by wearing a mask, social distancing, and staying home if possible.”
Abbott first issued the disaster declaration on March 13. Under state law, disaster declarations last 30 days unless renewed by the governor.
His latest renewal comes one day after state health officials reported 105 new COVID-19 deaths, the first time the daily death toll for the coronavirus reached triple digits in Texas.
The single-day increase set a record high for the third day in a row, following Wednesday’s 98 new deaths and Tuesday’s 60 fatalities.
And on Friday, Abbott announced that Texas will partner with CVS health company Omnicare to provide point-of-care COVID-19 testing for assisted living facilities and nursing homes around the state.
“This partnership with Omnicare and CVS Health will increase COVID-19 testing in our assisted living facilities and nursing homes and help us protect vulnerable Texans from COVID-19,” Abbott said in a statement. “Our collaboration with public and private entities is crucial to ramping up testing in Texas and mitigating the spread of this virus – especially among our most vulnerable populations.”
Omnicare testing in assisted living facilities began Thursday and testing in nursing homes will begin next week, according to the governor’s office.
Assisted living facilities and nursing homes have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, with outbreaks reported in facilities around Texas.
Statewide hospitalizations reached a record high for the 11th consecutive day Thursday, with 9,689 COVID-19 patients being treated in Texas hospitals.
In an effort to free up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, Abbott suspended elective surgeries in more than 100 Texas counties Thursday.
And a spike in hospitalizations in the Rio Grande Valley led a bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers to request additional federal resources and a new field hospital for the area.
Republican U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and Democratic Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, Filemon Vela and Henry Cuellar urged U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to deploy additional federal resources to the area.
“Providers in our region have urgently requested additional staffing and a myriad of medical supplies including oxygen, ventilators, personal protective equipment, and dialysis machines as well as additional facilities to enhance critical care and discharge capacity,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Azar. “The rapid deployment of federal resources would go a long way to alleviate and augment the local response as we continue to experience increases in COVID-19 cases.”
©2020 Austin American-Statesman, Texas
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