AUSTIN March 19, 2020 - Gov. Greg Abbott escalated Texas' response to the COVID-19 pandemic by declaring a “state of disaster” for all 254 counties Friday, a move that allows state agencies to focus their efforts on the emergency and gives state and local health authorities increased authority to act.
“The state of Texas will continue to take preventative measures and work with our federal and local partners to contain this virus and keep Texans safe,” Governor Abbott said at a press conference at the Capitol. “During this time, we need all Texans to do their part to help the state respond to this situation.”
In a statement, Texas Medical Association President David C. Fleeger, MD, said Texas physicians have been preparing for and are ready for the outbreak.
“The physicians of the Texas Medical Association stand by Governor Abbott in his emergency declaration to benefit our state. This move is warranted and beneficial for Texas,” Dr. Fleeger said. “Please understand, though, that today’s medical emergency in our state is the same as it was yesterday, and physicians’ prescription remains the same: calm vigilance.”
The governor says he plans to issue a series of directives based on the declaration, including:
- Directing state agencies to take any action necessary to facilitate telemedicine;
- Reassigning state emergency personnel where they are needed most;
- Reassigning resources around the state, including resources obtained through the Strategic National Stockpile, the country's largest reserve of medicines and medical equipment; and
- Waiving state laws that hinder state agencies from responding to COVID-19.
Governor Abbott also said that he would limit all unnecessary visits to nursing homes, day care centers, state-sponsored facilities, and prisons or detention centers.
"The key focus of our response is to prioritize the protecting of the most vulnerable populations who would be most likely to contract COVID-19," Governor Abbott said.
As of Friday, 39 cases have been confirmed in Texas, mostly in the state's largest metropolitan areas, according to the DSHS tracker for Texas COVID-19 cases.