Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday suspending all elective medical procedures in four Texas counties — including Harris County — as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb in the Houston area.
He also announced he is pausing any further phases as part of his plan to reopen the state and boost its economy amidst the pandemic. Businesses that are permitted to operate under previous reopening phases can continue to do so under the state’s designated occupancy levels and by following the protocols outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“As we experience an increase in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families,” Abbott said in a statement. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business. I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly and socially distancing from others.”
Abbott’s order regarding elective medical procedures, which takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday, also applies to Bexar, Dallas and Travis counties and seeks to preserve hospital capacity in metropolitan areas where the contagious upper-respiratory disease is rapidly spreading. The order, which can be read here, calls for the postponement of all surgeries and other medical procedures unless they are necessary to prevent “serious adverse medical consequences or death as determined by the patient’s physician.”
“… This prohibition shall not apply to any surgery or procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete any hospital capacity needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster,” the order states.
According to the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council, which tracks medical trends in the Houston region, COVID-19 hospitalizations have nearly tripled in Harris County since the start of June, while intensive care unit admissions related to the new coronavirus disease have nearly doubled during that time. As of Tuesday, there were a total of 8,828 patients in Harris County hospitals, with 1,143 of those patients having confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. Within the latter group, 483 patients were in the ICU.
Elective medical procedures were temporarily suspended shortly after the onset of the pandemic in the Houston region, in March and April, but were permitted to resume in May as part of Abbott’s plan to reopen the state.
Houston and Harris County had reported a total of 25,786 COVID-19 cases among residents as of Thursday morning, with the disease having caused 346 deaths and 9,009 patients having recovered. In the six zip codes served by The Leader — 77007, 77008, 77009, 77018, 77091 and 77092 — there have been 1,103 cases, 13 deaths and 216 recoveries related to COVID-19.