AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the state is facing a "massive outbreak" in the coronavirus pandemic and that some new local restrictions may be needed to protect hospital space for new patients.
In a series of midday interviews with television stations, Abbott said Texas would again pass 5,000 new coronavirus cases and more than 4,000 hospital patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Texas passed both thresholds for the first time Tuesday.
"There is a massive outbreak of COVID-19 across the state of Texas," Abbott said in an interview with KFDA-TV in Amarillo.
Abbott, who aggressively pushed to reopen the state in May, acknowledged state officials are closely watching hospital space. One of the first measures Abbott took in March when the pandemic emerged in the state was to order hospitals to suspend nonessential surgeries to help ensure they weren't overwhelmed. That ban was later rescinded.
With new cases and the number of COVID-19 patients rising rapidly, "We are looking at greater restrictions and some could be localized," Abbott said Wednesday without detailing what those would be or where.
"There are some regions in the state of Texas that are running tight on hospital capacity that may necessitate a localized strategy to make sure that hospital beds will be available," he said.
Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, the largest pediatric hospital in the U.S. said Tuesday that it was admitting adult patients across its campuses to free up more hospital bed space in the Houston area. The number of COVID-19-positive hospital patients in Harris County, which encompasses Houston, has nearly tripled since May 31.
Even with the hint of new restrictions to protect hospital space, Abbott said in a separate interview with KDFM-TV in Beaumont that hospital executives have assured him that they will be able to handle the rising numbers of patients.
"If there are more people coming in with COVID-19, they will ensure that beds are available," Abbott said.
As far as testing goes, Abbott told CBS 11 News on Tuesday that the state would not seek an extension to federally funded sites, which will lose funding at the end of June, in Dallas. Instead, the governor said a new strategy will take the place of those sites.
"The good news is there is a strategy that will supplant and actually be superior to that strategy that we will be announcing soon," Abbott told CBS 11 News. "... We already have the plan in place that should actually lead to even more testing going forward through a different strategy..."
Abbott did not go into detail about what the new strategy will involve, but he did say the state will have information "hopefully within a week."
Abbott also announced Wednesday that Texans who take a COVID-19 test at state-run mobile sites will receive four face masks to take home, starting Thursday.
"Wearing a mask or facial covering in public is an effective way for Texans to protect themselves and others from the transmission of COVID-19," Abbott said in a news release Wednesday. "This program helps ensure that Texans have the resources they need to effectively mitigate the spread of this virus and keep themselves and their communities safe.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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