AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest update on the state’s response to COVID-19 will come from a Department of Public Safety warehouse in Austin.
The warehouse is where Abbott held a March 24 briefing on the status of the supply chain at the time, touting purchase orders worth $83 million that the team had procured in a handful of days.
According to Abbott’s office, he will be joined by Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, Chief Nim Kidd, head of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and Dr. John Zerwas, Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs of the University of Texas System.
The quartet held a press conference April 3 to update Texans on hospital bed capacity.
As part of the presentation delivered by Abbott and Zerwas on Friday, the duo shared a series of slides charting the bed capacity in the state. Zerwas said the beds the state can identify and create lack meaning if there are not enough doctors and nurses to staff those rooms and beds. Faced with concerns that medical professionals themselves are becoming infected with COVID-19, state leaders are working on a pipeline of manpower to help keep hospitals up and running, particularly in rural areas, Zerwas said Friday.
During that same Friday announcement, Abbott said in the previous six days, the Supply Chain Strike Force has provided more than 1.4 million face masks, more than 190,000 face shields, more than two million gloves and more than 160,000 gowns. Chief Kidd said the state had received 3.8 million masks, a smaller number than what state leaders had asked for from primarily federal partners.
In an interview which aired April 5 on State of Texas, Zerwas said the Strike Force has had some success bringing in supplies, but acknowledged the supply had not caught up with the demand.
“I think we as a state, and we as a country, are starting to catch up on this,” Zerwas said.
“We’re turning to everybody for some of these supplies, because they’re in such great demand,” Zerwas said. “Not every lead we get on supplies is a good one, I’m sorry to say,” he added.
One difficulty is the worldwide demand for medical supplies due to COVID-19. “I don’t think any of us have ever been in a situation where the disaster was everywhere,” Zerwas said. “I don’t think I have, nor anybody else, has really experienced something on this magnitude.”
Abbott said Friday the implementation of his recent executive orders have increased hospital bed availability by 142%.
During the conference on Friday, Abbott commended Texas residents and organizations for their response and help — and asked for more. “Keep your offers coming, keep your supplies coming. Keep your volunteers coming.”
The State has set up a website for Texans to offer services and supplies: Texas.Gov/COVID19.
Abbott’s office announced Sunday night he temporarily waived regulations to allow certain people who are close to earning licenses to become medical professionals to get to work.
Additionally, Abbott posted a video to Twitter on Sunday thanking grocery store workers for “providing the food and supplies that are in such high demand.”
“Our fellow Texans would not be able to continue living without what you are doing,” Abbott said.