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Gov. Abbott deploys National Guard, issues two executive orders to help increase hospital capacity

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has deployed the National Guard and issued two orders in an effort to better equip healthcare facilities during the coronavirus outbreak.

SAN ANTONIO — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave a lengthy update on the state's response to coronavirus on Sunday afternoon.

He announced he'd be deploying the National Guard to help hospitals increase capacity and signed orders suspending elective procedures and loosening restrictions on hospitals. He stopped short of ordering all Texans to stay home, but urged all Texans to stay home if they can.

Statewide orders to increase hospital capacity

Abbott issued two statewide orders in an effort to better equip hospitals and other healthcare facilities during the coronavirus outbreak.

The first order instructs hospitals and healthcare professionals to suspend all non-essential medical procedures. The second order removes certain restriction on hospitals, allowing these facilities to increase patient capacity.

National Guard deploying this week

Abbott also said he is deploying the National Guard to assist at testing sites and set up temporary medical facilities in case they are needed to accommodate an influx of patients.

"The National Guard this week is going to be deploying to help local hospitals and local healthcare authorities respond to these challenges," Abbott said.

"They could be medical tents, which is what the hospital CEOs told me was their first choice, they could be reinstating recently vacated either hospitals or medical facilities, get them ready for immediate use."

How many Texans are being tested?

Abbott said that the number of tests conducted has increased exponentially in the past three days, from 2,335 on Friday to 8,700 on Sunday morning. He noted that less than 10% of tests have come back positive, but he reiterated that as more people get tested, more people will test positive.

San Antonio has 45 total reported cases of coronavirus, according to Metro Health. That includes 10 cases defined as "community transmission". 

Elsewhere in the state, Travis County is reporting 62 cases, the greater Houston area is reporting 144 cases and Dallas County is reporting 141 cases.

"This is exactly what is to be expected," Abbott said. "We are testing to the full extent of testing capabilities at this time."

Why aren't more tests being done?

Abbott said that the problem has been an inadequate supply of testing resources, and said that the increase in testing has been due to an increase in federal assistance.

"We have all the monetary resources that we need," Abbott said. "The problem is lack of availability of those testing resources."

He said that governors across the country share his concerns, and they've made the federal government aware of the large need and short supply of tests on phone calls with President Trump.

Why is the number of cases reported by Johns Hopkins different from the state?

Abbott explained that the widely-used Johns Hopkins map numbers are higher than the State Health Department numbers because Johns Hopkins uses presumptive positive tests that have not yet been confirmed by state health officials.

"According to the State Department of Health Services, there are 334 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 across 43 counties in the state of Texas," Abbott said, confirming a sixth death in the state as well. He noted that the Johns Hopkins map currently has 566 cases in Texas, and he intends to use both sources of data.

Texas isn't under a 'stay-at-home' order, but stay at home.

The governor stopped short of issuing a state-wide "stay-at-home" order like California, New York and other states, leaving it up to local governments for now. However, he strongly urged people to stay home if possible.

"If you don't have an essential reason to be leaving your home, you should not be leaving your home, it's pretty much that simple," Abbott said. 

"If people can abide by that standard, that will improve our mitigation of COVID-19," Abbott said. "If they refuse to do that, if we see non-compliance, if we see activity that promote further spread of COVID-19, then stricter standards will be needed."

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