Gov. Abbott Says Hospital Bed Capacity 'Abundant'

Steven Pickering
June 16, 2020 - 6:53 pm

    Texas set a new daily record for the number of COVID-19 cases reported on Tuesday. However, Governor Greg Abbott says the state still has a plentiful supply of hospital rooms to treat any COVID-19 patients.

    Texas reported 2,622 new COVID-19 cases today. Dallas County reported 306 new positive tests and another 8 deaths. State-wide, there are more than 2,500 people hospitalized for COVID-19.

    "Even though there are more people hospitalized, we still remain at the lowest threat level to our hospital capacity," Gov. Abbott said. "We are better prepared to deal with COVID-19 today than we were in March and April. The increased occupancy of hospital beds does raise concerns. But as shown today there is no reason to be alarmed."

    The Governor attributed the daily record for new cases in part to variances in the way that individual counties and cities report their data to the state. He also noted there had been outbreaks in assisted-living facilities and prisons, and said the state was devoting resources to dealing with those hot spots. He specifically noted the cases recently detected at a memory-care facility in Collin County.

    Overall, the Governor said the state was doing a good job in dealing with the virus.

    "Fewer Texans test positive for COVID-19 than residents of any large state in the United States," he said, "We have the second-lowest death rate of the 25 most-affected states."

    The Governor rejected a call from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins for more authority for local officials. Judge Jenkins wants to be able make wearing face masks in public a requirement. Governor Abbott is recommending that safety precaution, but believes it should be optional.

    Judge Jenkins said Tuesday he had communicated with the Governor's Office by text message Sunday night, and made his request during that exchange. He says he was asked by the Governor's Office about the increase in COVID-19 cases in Dallas County, and blamed it on increased activity and human contact - along with a loosening of mask requirements and fewer people observing social distancing guidelines. Those two things, Judge Jenkins said, were "both brought about the Governor's decision to accelerate opening and limit local ability to enforce recommendations from the Governor or medical experts."

    Governor Abbott said he would continue to recommend wearing face masks in public, but that Judge Jenkins or other County Judges did not need the authority to make them mandatory.

    "Wearing a mask is the best thing to do. Putting people in jail, however, is the wrong approach," Gov. Abbott said, "That's exactly what I believe the Dallas County Judge wants to do - throw people in jail…and that's wrong."

    He urged Judge Jenkins to instead focus on using his existing authority to go after people or businesses who hold mass gatherings, which could be subject to a fine.

    "Judge Jenkins has had available to him other tools of enforcement, and he hasn't lifted a finger to use those," Gov. Abbott said, "so he seems to be taking a two-faced approach to his enforcement."

    Judge Jenkins issued a statement late Tuesday disputing the Governor's assessment.

    "No one could be jailed for not wearing a mask under my or the City of Dallas' orders," Judge Jenkins wrote. "I'm simply asking the Governor to lead on the masking requirements the medical experts say is the single most important thing we can to right now to prevent spread or allow local governments to lead on this important issue."

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