Gov. Greg Abbott announces additional COVID-19 care site in Dallas, 2 executive orders

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference March 18 at Arlington's Office of Emergency Management. Abbott announced additional COVID-19 care site in Dallas. 

Gov. Greg Abbott announced an additional COVID-19 care site in Dallas and two executive orders regarding road travel from Louisiana and the release of “dangerous felons” from Texas jails during a press conference Sunday.

Given the escalation of the spread of COVID-19 in the Metroplex, the state will have the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas as an additional COVID-19 care site, Abbott said. Currently, there’s a capacity of 250 beds in the center, with the ability to expand if needed.

“Our goal is to focus on where we may be one, two or three weeks from now in the event that we have overflowed needs from our hospitals at the local level,” he said.

This comes after Dallas County reported its largest spike of positive COVID-19 cases, 78, in a single day Wednesday. Dallas County reported 49 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing its total case count to 488, according to the county website.

How soon the center becomes operational depends on how fast doctors can be moved to the county, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said during a separate press conference Sunday.

Hospitals in the county are at pretty good capacity as they are doubling up on beds at major hospitals, Jenkins said.

The county can have the center available faster if the state and federal governments help with sending medical employees, he said. This would help keep the county from having to supply the employees themselves.

“It makes no sense to pull people from UT Southwestern [Medical Center] or Parkland or Baylor,” Jenkins said. “We need the doctors.”

The state has made hospital capacity its top priority at the moment, Abbott said.

The number of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients in Texas more than doubled during the last week, with more than 16,000 beds available as of Thursday, Abbott said.

The state has also begun to locate additional alternative care sites in the Metroplex as well as other regions where COVID-19 has spread the most in Texas, he said. Hospitals will remain the primary care locations for Texans with COVID-19; however, the state must prepare for worst-case challenges as they arise, he said.

The first executive order Abbott announced restricts travel by road from any location in Louisiana and mandates a 14-day quarantine for those arriving in Texas. Abbott said a previous executive order covered air travel restrictions from that state.

Abbott issued the order in efforts to reduce bringing COVID-19 into Texas from areas that have a high rate of cases, which includes Louisiana. According to the Louisiana Department of Health, the state has over 3,500 cases reported as of Sunday.

The restrictions do not apply to commercial activity, military service, emergency and health response and critical infrastructure functions, he said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety will enforce the order at and near entry points from Louisiana. Everyone stopped will follow self-quarantine procedures, Abbott said.

Abbott also announced air travel restrictions from certain departure locations that would require passengers flying into Texas to quarantine. These locations include Miami, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Detroit, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois as well as any air travel from California and Washington state.

The second executive order stops the release of “dangerous felons,” or individuals in custody for or with a history of offenses involving physical violence or the threat of physical violence, from Texas jails. Abbott said this is in efforts to maintain the safety of the state during the declaration of disaster.

“Releasing dangerous criminals makes the state even less safe,” he said. “It also complicates and slows our ability to respond to the disaster caused by COVID-19.”

As of Sunday afternoon, Abbott said the state has tested about 25,483 individuals for COVID-19, with 2,552 of those individuals testing positive.

One hundred and eighteen counties out of the 254 have at least one positive case of COVID-19, he said. The number of confirmed patients in hospitals for COVID-19 is 176.

Currently, the state has a total of 34 deaths related to COVID-19, Abbott said.

Abbott clarified that most of the numbers are a result of personal interactions before social distancing practices that began this week or late last week.


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