Governor urges masks but no new steps as cases rise in Texas

Office fo the Governor (Photo Pool)Texas Gov. Greg Abbott addresses the state during a news conference on Monday in Austin. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the state is facing a “massive outbreak” in the coronavirus pandemic and that some new local restrictions may be needed to protect hospital space for new patients.

In a series of midday interviews with television stations, Abbott said Texas would again pass 5,000 new coronavirus cases and more than 4,000 hospital patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Texas passed both thresholds for the first time Tuesday.

The outbreak is also being felt in Walker County, with the local office of emergency management adding 53 new community cases Wednesday afternoon. A total of 373 community cases have been reported in Walker County since the outbreak began in mid-March, however the majority of those cases have been marked as recovered.

“There is a massive outbreak of COVID-19 across the state of Texas," Abbott said in an interview with KFDA-TV in Amarillo.

Abbott, who aggressively pushed to reopen the state in May, acknowledged state officials are closely watching hospital space. One of the first measures Abbott took in March when the pandemic emerged in the state was to order hospitals to suspend nonessential surgeries to help ensure they weren't overwhelmed. That ban was later rescinded.

With new cases and the number of COVID-19 patients rising rapidly, "We are looking at greater restrictions and some could be localized,” Abbott said Wednesday without detailing what those would be or where.

“There are some regions in the state of Texas that are running tight on hospital capacity that may necessitate a localized strategy to make sure that hospital beds will be available," he said.

Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, the largest pediatric hospital in the U.S. said Tuesday that it was admitting adult patients across its campuses to free up more hospital bed space in the Houston area. The number of COVID-19-positive hospital patients in Harris County, which encompasses Houston, has nearly tripled since May 31.

Even with the hint of new restrictions to protect hospital space, Abbott said in a separate interview with KDFM-TV in Beaumont that hospital executives have assured him that they will be able to handle the rising numbers of patients.

“If there are more people coming in with COVID-19, they will ensure that beds are available,” Abbott said.