Texas Gov.: It will take ‘several weeks’ to know if social distancing measures slowed COVID-19 spread

Abbott says it’s too early to know when students will return to classrooms

Gov. Greg Abbott provides an update on the efforts being taken to combat the coronavirus epidemic in Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued new executive orders on Sunday in an effort to help the state’s health care industry increase hospital bed and staffing capacities as more novel coronavirus cases are reported each day.

In a news conference on Sunday, Abbott announced the executive order after providing an update on the latest numbers released by the Texas Department of State Health Services. In Texas, there are 334 people who have tested positive for the virus, and six have died, he said. About 200 more have received presumptive positive results, Abbott said, citing Johns Hopkins University’s international tracker.

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More than 8,700 people have been tested so far in the state, Abbott said. He said he expects the number of cases to continue to increase daily.

Abbott’s first order directed health care professionals to postpone all elective surgeries that are not “medically necessary” to preserve the life of the patient, he said Sunday. That will keep more beds available for people in need of urgent care.

The second order frees up hospital capacity by allowing more than one patient in each room, Abbott said.

READ MORE: Gov. Greg Abbott issues directives to expand Texas hospital capacity, but stops short of shelter-in-place order

Abbott also waived regulations that will allow graduate nurses and vocational nurses to have a temporary permit extension without taking the state licensing exam. Retired and inactive nurses can also quickly reactive their permits to come back to work, and permits for out of state nurses will be fast-tracked.

Abbott praised the public for complying with his emergency order barring gatherings of more than 10 people. The series of Executive Orders released Thursday related to COVID-19 preparedness and mitigation.

However, he acknowledged that it would take several weeks to see whether the spread has been reduced enough to allow schools, restaurants and other businesses to open again.

Abbott urged Texans to continue practicing social distancing and to remain in their homes unless it is “essential.”

Abbott was joined by Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd, according to a news release.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.