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Gov. Abbott asks hospitals to postpone elective medical procedures; out-of-state medical workers will assist with surge

Gov. Greg Abbott said he has asked hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective medical procedures to free up hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will be utilizing staffing agencies to bring in medical personnel from out of state as hospitals experience a surge in COVID-19 patients.

The governor also said he has sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association asking hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective medical procedures, for which a delay will not result in a loss of life or deterioration of a patient’s condition, to increase hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients.

Last year, the governor signed an executive order that forced hospitals to stop doing elective procedures if COVID-19 patients took up more than 15% of hospital beds in a region, but he reversed that rule last month.

Additionally, DSHS and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) have been directed to open more COVID-19 antibody infusion centers across Texas. The centers treat patients with therapeutic drugs in hopes of preventing their condition from worsening and requiring hospitalization.

“These centers also help increase bed capacity in hospitals so that resources are available for the most ill patients,” the governor’s office said in a release.

An existing infusion center in Lubbock will expand capacity this week, and DSHS will launch five new centers throughout Texas beginning with a facility in San Antonio on Tuesday, according to the governor’s office. Patients must meet certain criteria and have a doctor’s referral to use the centers.

Abbott said he is directing TDEM and DSHS to increase vaccination availability across Texas and encouraged all Texans to get vaccinated.

"The State of Texas is taking action to combat the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and ensure that our hospitals and communities have the resources and support they need to mitigate the virus," said Gov. Abbott. "Texans can help bolster our efforts by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and it is our best defense against this virus."

Texans can visit covidvaccine.texas.gov to find a provider near them. Texans can also utilize TDEM's State Mobile Vaccine Program by calling 844-90-TEXAS and selecting Option 3 to schedule a mobile vaccine clinic to vaccinate groups of friends, families, employees, volunteers and more. Homebound Texans can also call 844-90-TEXAS and choose Option 1 to request a mobile vaccine team to come to their home.

The announcement comes as the state is experiencing a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations fueled by the highly contagious delta variant and lagging vaccination rates. As of Monday, around 53.6% of eligible Texans were fully vaccinated.

Gov. Abbott issued an executive order last month restricting any state or local agency and any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means from mandating masks or requiring proof of vaccination. But as hospitalizations rise and students return to the classroom, the order is facing a lawsuit, as well as defiance by big-city school districts.

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