Jun 16, 2020
Gov. Greg Abbott Texas Press Conference Transcript June 16 on Coronavirus
Governor Greg Abbott of Texas held a press conference on June 16. Abbott encouraged Texans to still take precautions for COVID-19, and that people under 30 are not taking coronavirus seriously. Read his full news briefing speech here.
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Governor Greg Abbott: (22:20)
All right. Very good. Listen, I want to thank everybody for being with us here today. We’re here today to let Texans know about the abundant hospital capacity that exists to treat Texans who may test positive for COVID-19. Now, understand the context we’re dealing with. We are in the middle of a short period of time where all of us have to coexist with COVID-19. The reality is COVID-19 still exists in Texas. It exists in the United States as well as across the entire world. And this is going to continue to be the case for at least a few more months until we have medicines that are able to treat people who test positive for COVID-19 and until we have medicines that are able to prevent people from getting COVID-19.
Governor Greg Abbott: (23:18)
And remember this, go back to March and April earlier this year, when there was a nationwide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 so that we would be able to prevent hospitals from being overrun. Importantly, that goal has been achieved. Fewer Texans test positive for COVID-19 than residents of any large state in the United States. We have the second lowest death rate of the 25 most affected States in America. Only about 10% or even less of Texans who test positive for COVID-19 ever even need to go to the hospital in the first place. And when they do, there is a hospital bed there available for them, for them to be treated. Well, as we continue the process of opening up Texas, as we continue to have Texans return to their jobs so that they are able to earn a paycheck that will help them pay their bills and put food on their table tables, we at the state level, as well as our peers across the entire state at the County and local level, we remain laser focused on maintaining abundant hospital capacity.
Governor Greg Abbott: (24:49)
Now, Dr. Zerwas will be providing a more detailed in depth update on hospital capacity in Texas but first there are a few points that I want to stress. First, more important than the numbers that you may hear about on a daily basis are the reasons behind those numbers. Let me just give you one example. It goes back just a few days ago to June the 10th. That was the day at the time when we had the most number of Texans who tested positive for COVID-19, the number was 2,540. If you hear that number and saw how large it was and saw that it was the highest number of people testing positive, that would be a big reason for concern.
Governor Greg Abbott: (25:40)
If however, you look behind that number and look into the reason why there was such a high number that day, then it provides a different level of context. Let me just mention two counties of the 254 in the state of Texas that had an outsized influence on that number that day. One is Jefferson County, which is where Beaumont is located, which is also where we have multiple state prisons and a federal prison located. Beaumont in Jefferson County, they average about 12 to 15 positive cases per day. On June the 10th however, they had 537 people who tested positive. About 520 of those came from a batch of positive tests that had been aggregated of inmates in a Texas prison and federal prison system that all came back at once. And hence as opposed to having that spread out over a number of days, it elevated one single day from 12 to 15 way above 500.
Governor Greg Abbott: (26:50)
Another County, small little Pecos County, Texas. They average less than two people testing positive each and every day. On June the 10th, there were 92 who tested positive that day. Obviously, a massive aberration. We looked into it and we found that there was a data error. As opposed to 92, the correct number was two. So if we just look at only those two out of 254 counties, you can see that there were certain reasons why on June the 10th, there happened to be a massive spike or increase in the number of people testing positive. I want you to know that this is the same type of analysis that we use on an ongoing basis as we look into each and every County across the entire state of Texas to figure out exactly what is going on.
Governor Greg Abbott: (27:46)
The reason why this is important is because knowing what is going on that leads to an increase in the number of people testing positive, it informs us how the state needs to go about responding to the challenges that may exist in any particular County and it also informs us about strategies that we may need to employ to make sure that we will maintain available hospital capacity. And that brings me to today. So today there will be another new high in the number of people who test positive. Today’s number is going to be 2,622. So as we look at this number, we look at counties around the state and we look at information that we have been gathering for the past several days and there are some explanations for why these numbers are so high. Let me give you just a couple of examples. One County where it tested inordinately high is Collin County. Collin County has been averaging well below 50 per day, around 25 to 30 people per day testing positive.
Governor Greg Abbott: (28:57)
Today, Collin County had 120 people test positive. One reason for that is because some tests came back from an assisted living facility in Collin County, which obviously is of concern. But as we have proven in other regions across the entire state of Texas, when we have a high level of positivity in something like an assisted living facility, we’re able to surge resources into that facility and get it contained and have that number reduced back down to zero. Some other counties, Hays County. Hays County, as far as I can tell had its highest number of people testing positive today than ever before, it had 265. But when you look back at the numbers, I see that yesterday Hays County had zero tests positive and the day before they had zero test positive. Whereas before that they had something in the 30s or 40s being tested positive.
Governor Greg Abbott: (29:58)
So what this means is obviously for whatever reason, there was no report to the state of Texas of what happened in the two prior days and it seems like these numbers were batched together. And averaged out, it would average out a little bit above where Hays County typically is. Now, there is a reason why Hays County, as well as some other counties have been testing positive at a higher rate. And one of the reasons that we have learned from multiple reports across the state of Texas is that there are certain counties where a majority of the people who are tested positive in that County are under the age of 30. And this typically results from people going to bar type settings. I can tell you that is the case Lubbock County, Bexar County, Cameron County. There were news reports in each of those three counties that are majority of the people who tested positive since the beginning of June have been people under the age of 30.
Governor Greg Abbott: (31:07)
It’s hard to tell exactly where those people contracted COVID. It could be Memorial Day celebrations, it could be a bar setting, it could be some other type of gathering. All we know is that because these people are testing positive at a higher rate who are aged 30 and younger, that informs us about certain strategies to take, to make sure that we are able to reduce the number of people testing positive. An example of that is what you saw announced yesterday by the TABC. The TABC issued a warning to bars and restaurants across the state of Texas that serve alcohol, that if there are any violations of what the orders are, then there will be a 30 day suspension of their liquor license. For the next violation, the violation after that, there would be a 60 day suspension of their liquor license. This is necessary to make sure that all of these businesses are following the protocols and standards that have been established for them to follow, standards that were established by doctors, knowing that if the standards were followed, there should not be an increase in the spread of COVID-19.
Governor Greg Abbott: (32:23)
And because there have been pictures that I have seen, and others have seen about these bar type settings where clearly the standards are not being followed, I think enforcement by TABC should bring these types of settings more into line to being safer standards. I will also tell you today that there is a one off in Rusk County like there had been in Pecos County before or Jefferson County before. In Rusk County, Texas there typically are not that very many people that test positive however, there was a report of 104 people testing positive in Rusk County today. And it’s my understanding that a majority of those that came back positive were a batch return from tests that have been conducted in a prison in Rusk County. Now, to go back to so you’ll know, Texas was very aggressive over the past several weeks to make sure that we test what are called congregate settings.
Governor Greg Abbott: (33:21)
One is nursing homes where we’ve tested 100% of the nursing homes to make sure that those facilities will be as safe as possible. Another congregate setting is a jail or prison setting. Now, we have completed testing well over a majority of those types of congregate settings. Know that jail and prison settings, they have returned the highest positivity rate that we have seen in the state of Texas. And so now that we have gotten through most of those types of congregate settings, there is reason to believe that those testing positive, the number of those testing positive should begin to decline a little bit.
Governor Greg Abbott: (34:08)
Another thing that we say with regards to numbers, still continuing the process of talking about the importance of looking what is behind the numbers. One thing about the numbers, in addition to those testing positive, are these numbers that you’ve been saying about an increase in the number of people who are hospitalized because of COVID-19. Let me share with you some contexts that Dr. Zerwas will be elaborating on in far greater detail. These are numbers from today that kind of give you an explanation. So today it will be reported that there are 2,518 people who have tested positive, who are hospitalized in the state of Texas. As Dr. Zerwas will explain that’s really a very small percentage of people… I mean, a small percentage of all the beds that are available. Looking at the sheet that I have about all the major Metro areas, there’s only one County or one region in the state of Texas, where COVID patients represent more than 10% of the hospital beds that are available. And that would be Galveston County.
Governor Greg Abbott: (35:21)
It looks like on average, it’s about five or… in fact, the average is 6.3% of the hospital beds that are occupied in the state of Texas are by COVID patients. Meaning that percentage wise and numerically, there is an abundant supply of beds that are available. But let me mention two counties in particular to show you how this works today. Today, there were 64 people who tested positive in the Dallas Fort Worth area who were added to hospital beds. That said, separate from that there were 308 hospital beds in the Dallas, Fort Worth area that became available. So even though there were more people hospitalized in Dallas, Fort Worth today because of COVID-19, it turned out that there were about 250 beds more available in that region. The same is true for the Houston area. In Houston there are, today, 65 more people who test positive for COVID-19, who are hospitalized. That said there were 183 beds more that became available.
Governor Greg Abbott: (36:32)
Hence, even though more people testing positive for COVID-19 were hospitalized today in Houston, there were more than 100 additional beds that actually became available. The second thing that I want to emphasize is that as we gather today, we are better prepared to deal with COVID-19 today than we were back in March and April. There are new medical strategies as well as new treatments that are available today. One is that these hospitals, they have more PPE available to them than they did just a couple of months ago. Two is they have some new drugs like Remdesivir. They’re able to treat patients who are hospitalized and get them out of the hospital beds sooner than before. The third strategy is a process learned as doctors and hospitals have dealt with these patients and that is, as opposed to treating a patient laying on their back, they will treat a patient laying on their stomach. And as I understand that one of the positive benefits of this is it makes it less likely that the patient will need to go onto a ventilator. The third thing I want to emphasize, unlike back in March, today everyone now knows how to make safe decisions to prevent contracting COVID-19 and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The first and most obvious is to stay at home. If you do not need to get out, the best advice is to still stay at home. Now, of course, this is especially true for those who are age 65 and older and especially those of that age group who have some other health based condition. We know that about 75% of the deaths of COVID-19 result from people aged 65 and older with some other type of health condition. So unless you are in that age group and actually need to go out for some reason, our recommendation is that you still remain home.
Governor Greg Abbott: (38:31)
However, you don’t need to be at that age group to still understand that staying at home does more to ensure that you will not come into contact with somebody who has COVID-19. Hence is just a mathematical result, that if you stay at home, the likelihood of spreading COVID-19 decreases as opposed to increases. And then in addition to that, one thing that we’ve all learned over the past few months, and that is, there are three strategies that everyone can use that will go a long way to slowing and reducing the spread of COVID-19. One is to wear masks. Two is to use frequent hand sanitizing, and three is to maintain these safe distancing practices. You can’t get COVID just by walking around somewhere. COVID is going to be exchanged by getting up close to somebody where it can be transmitted to you.
Governor Greg Abbott: (39:27)
So if you wear the mask, if you sanitize your hands, about everything you touch, if you maintain your distance when you go shopping, whatever the case may be, you’re going to be doing the types of things that will ensure you do not get COVID and that you will not be spreading COVID to somebody else. Now, the reason why I make that last point is this. You may be thinking, well, if I have COVID I’m not going to go out. Remember there is what’s called asymptomatic COVID cases, meaning that you may not have any symptoms. You may not know you have COVID and you may still be going out because you may have-
Governor Greg Abbott: (40:03)
And you may still be going out because you may have it and not know it. That’s why it is so important for you to wear a face mask when you go out, to make sure that if you happen to be an asymptomatic COVID-19 person, that you are doing the right thing by wearing a face mask so that you’re not spreading COVID-19 to somebody else. Now, these strategies that we’ve learned to reduce the spread of COVID-19, they also pertain to businesses in the state of Texas. Businesses have learned safe strategies for both their employees as well as their customers, to make sure that they’re preventing the spread of COVID-19 so much so that some businesses have recognized that even though they are able to open up for business, they have realized it’s simply not safe to do so at this time.
Governor Greg Abbott: (40:55)
The last point I want to make, and that is we are now in a situation where we are coexisting with COVID-19, where we do not have to choose between either returning to jobs or protecting healthcare. We do have the tools and the strategies in place where we can achieve both of those ends. Jobs can be maintained without jeopardizing the health of a community if everyone follows the safe strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The more the Texans protect their own health, the safer our state will be and the more that we will be able to open up Texas for doing business. Now, listen, I know that an issue on the minds of a lot of people in the state is the issue about hospital capacity and our ability to make sure that we are going to be able to treat anybody who tests positive for COVID-19. The good news is I have good news for you, and it will be explained to you by Dr. John Zerwas.
Dr. John Zerwas: (42:07)
Thank you, Governor. And thank you for the opportunity to share a little bit of information here related to hospital capacity. And I’m going to do this largely through a bit of a slide show here. And so I’ll move into the first slide here that talks about total beds available in Texas. And it actually starts back where we were in mid-March before we had a prohibition on elective surgeries being done. We had about 8,000 beds that were available at that time. Over time with the imposition of a prohibition on elective procedures, that rose to almost 22,000 beds. And since that time, since on April 22nd, and we lifted that prohibition by your order, we are now at about 15,000 beds that are available. So still nearly twice number of beds are available now that were available back in mid-March that could be available for COVID patients.
Dr. John Zerwas: (43:08)
This represents about a 78% increase in all of our patients, all of our beds out there. Statewide in the next slide which you’ll see here is the total beds available. Again, nearly 15,000. The total beds reported in our healthcare system is almost 55,000. Percent of those beds are 27%. The total number of ICU beds available is 1,675. And I’ll just mention the ventilators here. You can see that we have nearly 6,000 classic or conventional ventilators, if you will, that are available.
Dr. John Zerwas: (43:45)
What I’d like to do is touch on really the slide that the Department of State Health Services worked on very hard and allowed me to be a part of that conversation, where we divided the various levels of surge capacity into five different levels. Level five being what you would typically see in the maintenance of staffed beds currently right now, in other words, that day in and day out, that’s the beds that a hospital would typically run.
Dr. John Zerwas: (44:10)
Level four would be how many places can we surge into? How can we increase bed capacity into a hospital that perhaps there’s space for it, and perhaps there’s beds in there, but no staff and so forth? The third level would be surging into less conventional areas of a hospital. The example I like to give and it’s close to my heart is an anesthesiologist is that it’s not atypical to use the recovery room area after surgery as an ICU, because all the equipment that you need in order to take care of an intensive care patient can be handled in a recovery room type setting. All three of those levels are levels within the walls of a hospital and the numbers I’m going to subsequently run through here with you in nine different areas of the state will speak to that.
Dr. John Zerwas: (44:59)
Level two and level one is where we start to get outside the hospital. These are like ambulatory surgery centers. There are nursing homes that might be available, longterm, acute care hospitals. They might even be buildings of opportunity where you would set up an arena hospital, similar to what was at NRG, Kay Bailey Hutchison, or at the Freeman Center in San Antonio.
Dr. John Zerwas: (45:24)
So let me run through about nine different areas with you here. It’s going to be a bit repetitive and I apologize for that, but I’ll pick the speed up a little bit as we go through. If we look at the Dallas Fort Worth area and let me just say, TSA refers to Trauma Service Area. That’s the way the state is broken up in terms of various ways of managing emergencies and crises and things like that. They are managed by regional advisory councils or RACs is what we refer to them as. And TSA E is one of our largest ones, Dallas Fort Worth area, obviously.
Dr. John Zerwas: (45:59)
Total reported beds is over 14,000 in that particular area. What we know is about 24% of those beds are available, which comes to about 3,400 beds. Total ICU beds available, again, these are unused ICU beds at this point in time are 525. So the total surge though, hospitals, that in other words, that category five, four and three that I just mentioned to you, we could surge into beds that would amount to 5,500 beds if we needed to in this particular area. The number of lab confirmed patients, COVID patients right now in this particular area is 765. And so you can see that it’s really a pretty small number of the total hospital patients that are in this particular area.
Dr. John Zerwas: (46:47)
Another very large area is TSA Q, Houston area. The total reported beds in this area are 12,458. 21% of those beds are available mounting to about 22,675. Total ICU beds available in this region are 247. The surge beds are nearly 3,600. Again, you can increase that many more beds within the hospital. Our current number of COVID patients is 795. In Tyler and our East Texas region TSA G is total beds of about 2000. The percent beds that are available are 27%. Total beds available amount is 515. ICU beds available is 68. We could surge into an additional 448 beds. And the number of lab confirmed COVID patients in this region is 60.
Dr. John Zerwas: (47:43)
Going over to El Paso. El Paso recently had a pretty steep number of patients testing positive in the past couple of weeks. They anticipated that. That’s what the numbers showed where they were. Their total reported beds are 1,805. The percent of beds available at this point in time is 31%. That’s 563 beds. ICU beds of that 563 is 64. And the total hospital beds that you could surge into are 470. The number of lab confirmed COVID patients in the hospitals in El Paso totaled to about 97.
Dr. John Zerwas: (48:21)
And a point I’ll make right here, as I’ve mentioned these to you as these numbers change and as we start to see more COVID hospitalizations go up and we see more bed occupancy go up, a common effort by the Department of State Health Services, sometimes myself, is to call into these areas and talk specifically with the CEOs in these areas and find out how are you doing on your bed capacity? How are you doing your ICU capacity? Do we need to look for any alternative sites to set up for you to manage your patients and be sure that we always have capability there?
Dr. John Zerwas: (48:54)
That’s a very, very informative thing. The governor participated on a call this morning with CEOs from across the whole state. It was a very clear theme going forward is a lot of COVID patients are out there. They aren’t driving the hospital census right now. And as the governor mentioned, most of the time, the number of patients in there are less than 10%. They’re more in the 7% category. Galveston was noted as one that was around 12%.
Dr. John Zerwas: (49:23)
Going on to TSA A, Amarillo, this is where we had some issues with our meat packing plants up there recently. It was what you might call a hot spot at one time. It no longer is. Total reported beds in this area are 1,038. 41% of those beds are now available. So that would be about 426. The total number of ICU beds is 51. They can surge into about another 260 beds if they needed to. And their lab confirmed patients, COVID patients in hospital is 25.
Dr. John Zerwas: (49:56)
In Abilene area, TSA D, the total beds is 722. About 52% of those beds are still available, meaning about 376. Total ICU beds available are 17. They can surge into an additional 220 beds and they have one patient that’s in the hospital at this point in time.
Dr. John Zerwas: (50:19)
TSA in the Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley area has reported beds of about 2,800. 23% of these beds are available for about 660. 51 ICU beds are available. They can surge into an additional 544 beds. And they have lab confirmed COVID patients in hospitals at 132.
Dr. John Zerwas: (50:41)
San Antonio has a total of, in this particular region, about 5,800 beds. 26% of them are available. Their total beds available are about 1500. ICU beds, 196. They can surge into an additional 491 beds. Their lab confirmed COVID patients in hospitals are around 185.
Dr. John Zerwas: (51:05)
And the Austin area, TSA O, that is about 3,250 beds at 28% of those being available about 910. Their total ICU beds available is 125. Total surge beds is about 1,500. They have around 137 COVID confirmed patients in the hospital.
Dr. John Zerwas: (51:28)
So that’s kind of an unpacking, if you will, across the state of the various regions related to the number of hospitalized patients. I wanted to come back to the slide that shows how we have divided these up into five different levels and really speak just really quickly here to level two and level one.
Dr. John Zerwas: (51:46)
So you can see a surge into an adjacent building. This might be, as I mentioned before, a convalescent center, something known as a longterm acute care hospital. It might be a medical office building perhaps, but they are existing buildings that are to some extent made for taking care of patients. And in level one is a surge to a quote unquote building of opportunity. And once again, this is where you might see an arena hospital or a field hospital set up.
Dr. John Zerwas: (52:15)
On the next slide what you’ll see is just really a compilation of some numbers there across the state that gives you an idea of what these are. They’re supported by either the state or by the local region. The state has over a thousand sites that they have identified there. Those little stars that are in there simply means that the Department of State Health Services has established a relationship with an alternative care center and this might be a hotel or motel. And they have 200 beds available in these other locations as needed. And as you can see, the local communities have established as many as 4,500 additional beds.
Dr. John Zerwas: (52:56)
And so I hope what this shares, Governor, is a really a comforting message in that we have an incredibly robust healthcare system in the state of Texas. They stand ready to serve the communities that they are part of. They are serving the COVID needs out there right now and will always continue to serve those needs. But they’re also serving the needs of the community beyond that. And so the vast majority of patients in the hospital are being served by these entities because there’s healthcare needs outside of COVID that dominate the picture right now. But as time goes forward, the men and women who run these hospitals and run these healthcare systems are very, very adept, very, very skillful at managing the population of patients that they need to serve within their facilities.
Governor Greg Abbott: (53:44)
Great. Thank you. If I could go back to this graph, I want to make sure that I comprehend what you’re talking about and most importantly, that the public understands what you’re talking about. There are five categories of response level with regard to hospital beds. The most emergency level would be level one. And the safest level is level five. Do I understand correctly that we are still at level five at this stage?
Dr. John Zerwas: (54:13)
We are. We are managing the entire population of the entire needs of patients within the level that hospitals maintain staff beds.
Governor Greg Abbott: (54:24)
Okay, very good. Dr. Hellerstedt.
Dr. Hellerstedt: (54:30)
Thank you, Governor. The message is that we are seeing some increase in the number of COVID patients in the state. We expected this, but we are seeing it occurring at a manageable level. I really want to stress though, that the continued success is up to the people of the state of Texas. The Governor has covered it very adequately talking about the things that we have been recommending all along, the steps that people take to personally be responsible for their own health and also personally take measures that will protect the health of the rest of the folks in the community. So masking, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, covering your cough, disinfecting and cleaning commonly touched surfaces. These things are very important. There is some evidence that we see in certain instances where people seem to believe that it’s not important for them to take those precautions. And I want you to understand that nothing could be further from the truth.
Dr. Hellerstedt: (55:38)
We have been successful in Texas in that we have kept COVID at bay for right now. In the first wave of COVID that we’ve had over the last several months, we have dealt with it successfully. We’ve managed to maintain that crucial hospital capacity. But what that means is on the other side of that first wave, there’s still a majority of people in Texas who did not get COVID-19 and therefore do not have immunity to COVID-19 and therefore could become infected with COVID-19. And that’s the vast majority of people. So the possibility that things could flare up again and produce a resurgence of COVID-19 that would be a stress on our system, on our healthcare system is still very real.
Dr. Hellerstedt: (56:29)
We must, however, maintain the fact that we have an opening up of our economy, that people are able to go back to work to be able to create the goods and services that we all rely upon and be able to feed their families and pay their bills. The way to do both of these things is to maintain and practice great discipline in the sort of preventative measures, preventative personal measures that we’ve talked about. Masking, hand washing, hand sanitizing, and the cleaning and disinfecting. We must do this, Texas, in order to be successful in facing this next phase of our fight against COVID-19. So don’t give up the fight.
Governor Greg Abbott: (57:13)
Great. Thank you. Chief Nim Kidd.
Chief Nim Kidd: (57:15)
Thank you, Governor. I’ll quickly talk about personal protective equipment and testing strategies. In partnership with FEMA and our strike team on personal protective equipment, we put 4.4 million face shields into the market for EMS and for healthcare responders. 1.1 billion gloves, 25 million gowns and 102 million masks. That is in addition to the 25 million masks, half a million face masks and 1.3 million gowns that we were holding back in a stockpile. Everyday new PPE is coming in. Everyday PPE is going out and we will continue this cycle until the supply chain is completely rebuilt. Also over 1.6 million Texans have been tested for COVID-19. And as we continue to move forward, working in our urban areas with our local partners to really get into those underserved and underutilized areas, we want to make sure that testing is available to every Texan.
Governor Greg Abbott: (58:04)
Very good. So the bottom line is this. And that is the increased occupancy of hospital beds, it does raise concerns, but as shown today, there is no reason right now to be alarmed. The reason is because even though there are more people hospitalized, we still remain at the lowest threat level in our hospital capacity. We have plenty of room to expand beds. There are thousands of hospital beds that are available as we speak right now. And then there is the ability to surge even more hospital beds if they were ever to be needed to respond to COVID-19. And then also we still have the tool available to us to reduce nonessential surgical procedures if we needed even more beds. As Dr. Zerwas explained earlier, we did have the opportunity to get a robust update from hospital CEOs around the state of Texas. These are professionals who are accustomed to managing the availability of hospital beds, and this is nothing new for them whatsoever. And they expressed confidence about their ability to continue to make hospital beds available for Texans who may need them because of COVID-19.
Governor Greg Abbott: (59:24)
The last thing that I’ll point out, and that is people need to recognize successes that are achieved along the way. You remember that I had a press conference a couple of weeks ago in Amarillo where we were talking about surging in supplies and tests and response to the overwhelming number of people who were testing positive in that region because of outbreaks at meatpacking facilities as well as some nursing facilities. And if you look at what has happened since then, there has been a steady decline in the number of people testing positive. There has been a steady decline in the number of people who are hospitalized. And so Amarillo is an example of the results that we see when we deploy…
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:00:03)
… example of the results that we see when we deploy the strategies we have available to us to respond to outbreaks of COVID-19 around the state of Texas. We remain flexible with all kinds of strategies to make sure that we will be able to continue to contain COVID-19, to continue to provide the healthcare that’s needed for anybody who test positive for COVID-19 while we still continue the process of opening up Texas for employees to get back to work to earn the paycheck they need, and they deserve, to pay their bills and take care of their families. With that, we’ll be happy to take a few questions.
Speaker 2: (01:00:45)
Governor, in talking about the ability to balance the economy and health, it almost sounds like there was a little bit of a warning from you and Dr. Hellerstedt about personal responsibility and that if Texans don’t do what they need to do, there may be an imbalance such that you have to take further action. Is that a correct read on that?
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:01:02)
Well, the correct read is this, and that is there has been an increase in the number of people testing positive and we’ve seen some reasons for that increase, whether it be testing in jail settings or prison settings. However, we think that we can also accurately say there has been an increase, especially beginning around the Memorial Day time period and going through a few weeks after that, an increase in people testing positive, because they may not be practicing all of these safe standards.
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:01:36)
And what we wanted to emphasize is that every single individual in Texas has the unique ability and responsibility to make sure they don’t get COVID-19 just by following these safe practices of wearing a mask, washing your hands, keeping your distance. You can go about a lot of your normal daily functions if you follow those three standards and you can go about those daily functions without spreading COVID-19, and so we just want to double down in reminding everybody that these things that we learned over March and April and May, they still have to be practiced because COVID-19 hasn’t suddenly magically left the state of Texas. It is still here until we create medicines and immunizations that will be able to reduce the existence of COVID-19.
Speaker 3: (01:02:27)
Given all these numbers that you’ve laid out do you think it’s still a good idea to have the state GOP convention here in Texas?
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:02:36)
So that has been-
Speaker 3: (01:02:37)
In person, I guess.
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:02:37)
Sure. So that’s been evaluated in the same methodology that we evaluated stadiums such as baseball stadiums or football stadiums being able to open. And it doesn’t allow everybody just to crowd in. There are certain safe strategies, whether it be a football stadium or a convention, that can be used to make sure that people are capable of gathering without spreading COVID-19. It’s the same strategy that was created initially for churches to make sure, for example, that in churches, rows are skipped and that family units or people traveling together can sit together and there’s space separating them from other people.
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:03:17)
And so we do believe whether it be a convention or a sporting event, whatever the case may be, there is the ability to have people gather as long as safe protocols are used.
Speaker 3: (01:03:31)
And following up on this idea of stadiums, have you talked to athletic directors about college football games, you know, being able to open at 50% with fans?
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:03:40)
Yes. So I had a telephone conference recently with all of the athletic directors for schools in the state of Texas, and we talked about this very issue and that is protocols for stadiums, which included football stadiums, but also basketball and volleyball venues which would be indoor based venues, about making sure that they use all the safe strategies and it includes more than just the seating strategy. It includes the way people will go about the process of entering stadiums. It’ll include things such as avoiding large gathering areas within stadiums and certain other strategies and all of these athletic directors, they are charged with the duty of coming up with the best strategy for their particular stadium, presenting it to the doctors who serve on my team to make sure that the game plan, if you would, for these athletic directors will satisfy the standards that the doctors believe is a safe way to approach these gatherings.
Speaker 3: (01:04:39)
Speaker 4: (01:04:41)
Governor, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has written you and tweeted that masks are increasingly shown by scientific studies to be the best tool to contain the spread and he’s pleading for you to let local governments do more to require and compel people to wear masks. What’s your response?
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:05:06)
Well, several things. One is that I have made clear, everybody on this panel today has made clear, but as you know, I make clear on a daily basis around the entire state of Texas that wearing a mask is very important and local officials send that same message. So all of us have a collective responsibility to educate the public that wearing a mask is the best thing to do. Putting people in jail, however, is the wrong approach for this thing, and that’s exactly what I believe the Dallas County judge wants to do, and that is throw people in jail and that’s wrong.
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:05:41)
I will point out this, and that is that Judge Jenkins has had available to him other tools of enforcement and he hasn’t lifted a finger to use those other tools of enforcement. And so he seems to be taking a somewhat two-faced approach as it concerns his pleas for enforcement. He needs to avail himself of the tools that are available to him for enforcement.
Speaker 4: (01:06:05)
What about fines in late April?
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:06:07)
That’s exactly what I’m talking about.
Speaker 4: (01:06:08)
[crosstalk 01:06:08] Hidalgo.
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:06:09)
What I’m talking about is the county judge, whether it be the county judge in Dallas or elsewhere, they do have the ability to impose fines, not for a face mask, but for other strategies. For example, the types of gatherings that people gather in certain locations, they may not be in compliance with the protocols and hence would be subject to fines, and even though Judge Jenkins or any other local official has had the authority to impose those fines, they haven’t lifted a finger to do so.
Speaker 5: (01:06:38)
Yeah, I’ve got one. Governor, today monitors in the foster care lawsuit filed a big report with Judge Janis Graham Jack. The state has, I believe, spent about a half billion more on child protective services and foster care in the last three years than it was spending before, but why are these children still dying and their outcries being ignored?
Speaker 5: (01:07:05)
Unfortunately, I’ve been focused on COVID today. I’m aware of the decision you’re talking about, but have not had the chance to dig into it and find out what they said. I do know this, and that is what you pointed out, and that is in an unprecedented fashion I did call childcare for those in foster care to be an emergency item and the legislature took me up on that and they did respond very robustly, in a way more powerfully than any legislature ever has, devoting billions of dollars to make sure that children will be better taken care of. That said, because I haven’t read today’s report, I can’t determine how these monitors who are being paid themselves for the product they issue today, I can’t tell or know what they’re saying, how we are coming up short, but one goal that we do have as a state, and that is to make sure that our vulnerable children will be taken care of. If there are ways we can improve upon what we have already done, we’ll do it.
Speaker 5: (01:08:12)
Another one real quick.
Speaker 3: (01:08:16)
I know that sort of the in person summer schools have started in a couple of areas. What are you telling teachers, especially those that are in these vulnerable health populations, about returning to school?
Governor Greg Abbott: (01:08:28)
Returning to school is very important. It’s important for students, teachers, for parents, for communities and we anticipate in an announcement either later this week or next week, that we’ll talk about what we look forward to for the upcoming school year. It is my expectation to see students return to schools in a classroom setting, able to interact with teachers as well as able to interact with other students. We are looking forward to the hope of the ability for students to participate in athletics, as well as other programs that they traditionally have been participating in school. But those announcements will be coming either later on this week or next week.
Speaker 5: (01:09:11)
Bob, last question.
Governor quick question, I don’t know, maybe defer it to one of the doctors, but the total hospital beds available, are you including beds and children’s and psychiatric hospitals and doesn’t that inflate the denominator, so to speak, create a picture that there’s more supply than really an adult would be able to use?
Dr. John Zerwas: (01:09:32)
Good question, Bob I’ll field that one. We don’t include psychiatric beds in there. It’s too difficult to make that transition for treatment of a COVID-type patient or any other physical illness into a psychiatric bed. Although there was some effort in Tyler to do that, where in fact, they were able to shift some patients out of a hospital into a facility in Tyler also that was primarily featured for psychiatric care and so there were some efforts to accomplish that. But in general, we don’t include those, so beds like the Harris County Psychiatric Center are not included in there.
Dr. John Zerwas: (01:10:09)
Children’s beds are, however. Not very many children get ill, but some do, but they’ve also reached out and we heard that this morning on the conference call with a couple of the CEOs from children’s hospitals that they’ve raised the age in order that they could take in more patients, older patients, in those areas. They’ve also been able to take some of their intensive care beds and utilize those for older patients and so forth. So the children’s hospitals are truly in the game and they want to be in the game.
Do you think they can take some of Governor Abbott’s 20 somethings?
Dr. John Zerwas: (01:10:44)
Well, you know, I’ll let Dr. Hellerstedt, who is also the pediatrician, answer that further.
Dr. Hellerstedt: (01:10:52)
Yes, absolutely. As a pediatrician, certainly, children’s hospitals are capable of doing that and in fact, in many instances, there are certain types of complex diseases that may present in childhood, but you have 20-something old patients who really need the benefit of those pediatric centered specialists. So a surprising amount of inpatient care takes place in adults, young adult age group, and as you might also imagine, children’s hospitals are able to take care of a variety at full range of the size of individuals. So all the way from premature babies all the way up to pretty big strapping adolescents. So the kind of equipment that they have and the kind of expertise that they have readily lends itself to be able to take care of an adult.
Okay [inaudible 01:11:49]. Appreciate it.