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The state of the state’s response

I mean, it’s something.

Gov. Greg Abbott took multiple measures Sunday designed to expand hospital staffing and capacity in Texas, but declined to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order — even as calls for such an action increased as the new coronavirus continued to spread across the state.

In an effort to free up hospital beds in anticipation of an influx of patients sick with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Abbott ordered health care professionals to postpone “all surgeries that are not medically necessary” and suspended regulations to allow hospitals to treat more than one patient in a room.

But he did not order all Texans to shelter in place, noting that there are still many counties in the state without confirmed cases and that he wants to see the full impact of an executive order he issued Thursday. In the meantime, he welcomed local officials to take more restrictive action than he has statewide.

During an afternoon news conference at the state Capitol in Austin, Abbott also announced the formation of a “strike force” to respond to the coronavirus and that the Texas National Guard, which he activated several days ago, would be deployed this week to help hospitals deal with the outbreak.

In the lead-up to Abbott’s news conference, though, attention centered most intensely on whether he would go beyond the executive order that he issued Thursday. That order urged all Texans to limit public gatherings to 10 people, prohibited eating in at restaurants and bars and temporarily closed schools. That order went into effect midnight Friday and goes through midnight April 3.

“We need to see the level of effectiveness of the executive order,” Abbott said. “What we may be right for places like the large urban areas may not be right at this particular point of time for the more than 200 counties that have zero cases of COVID-19.”

[…]

Abbott said that his decision not to issue a statewide order should not stop local officials from issuing such orders in their jurisdictions.

“Local officials have the authority to implement more strict standards than I as governor have implemented in the state of Texas, “Abbott said. “If they choose to do so I would applaud them for doing so, but at this time it is not the appropriate approach to mandate that same strict standard across every area of the state, especially at a time when we are yet to see the results coming out of my most recent executive order.”

See here for the background. I can see the reason for Abbott’s actions, or lack thereof. It’s not clear that this is necessary for rural areas, and for the most part the localities that have needed such action have taken it themselves. (Insert reminder about Abbott’s self-serving relationship with the concept of “local control” here.) Indeed, the next story the Trib ran is about Dallas County prepping a shelter-in-place order. (Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has said she is considering such an order but has not yet announced one.) At least some hospitals have already acted to limit or suspend elective procedures as well. What all of this does is mostly make me think that Abbott is behind the curve rather than ahead of it. You know I don’t think much of our Governor, but even for him this seems kind of limp. What could he be doing that isn’t already being done? That’s what I’d like to know.

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2 Comments

  1. Wolfgang says:

    I agree with the assessment of the Abbott response. It’s also convenient to let local Democrats make the tough decisions, and take the heat for them. Abbott also got a favorable mention in Trump’s let-the-old-folks-perish press conference today.

    Here is the link to Abbott’s aid request letter to Trump:
    https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/O-TrumpDonald202003231604.pdf

    STAY-HOME-AND-STOP-SPREADING-DEATH SEMANTICS

    Alas, the leaders of County and City don’t see eye to eye.

    Hidalgo and Turner held separate briefings earlier today. Turner quibbles over semantics (what to call the forthcoming order in lieu of shelter-in-place) and bewails the numerosity of the “loopholes” in the order issued by the Dallas County Judge, which presumably serves as the template for the draft being worked on in Houston/Harris County.

    Turner shouldn’t have committed himself to a position that would soon become untenable. Wisely, Hidalgo didn’t rule out more drastic mobility restrictions, considering the fluidity of the situation, and the lack of data.

    Hopefully, the address/location data collected on the new diagnostic screening website will be used to generate a heatmap to pinpoint the hotspots, short of harvesting and analyzing cellphone trails, which is not being done in Israel and considered in Europe for contact-tracing, warning, and quarantine enforcement purposes.

    Meanwhile, according to on-line reporting by the Houston Chronicle, Texas Medical Center CEOs are in agreement on the need for a “shelter in place”. The Chronicle quotes William McKeon, president and CEO of the TMC, as follows:

    “The facts are clear […] Earlier and more aggressive restriction of public movement is much more effective at reducing community spread of COVID-19 than later and less aggressive restrictions. We must come together by standing apart.”

    https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/prognosis/article/Med-center-leaders-call-for-shelter-in-place-15152067.php

  2. […] can add in Galveston County and some other places as well. If Greg Abbott isn’t going to do it, then it looks like everyone else will. As for Houston, here’s that Chron […]