BROWNSVILLE, Texas – With COVID-19 raging along the Texas-Mexico border, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation Tuesday suspending elective surgeries at hospitals in Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces, and Webb counties.

He says this will help ensure hospital bed availability for COVID-19 patients in these communities. 

This proclamation amends Abbott’s previous executive order, which suspended elective surgeries in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties.

Governor Greg Abbott

“As these counties experience a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are committed to working alongside hospitals to help ensure that every COVID-19 patient who needs a bed will have access to one,” Abbott said. 

“We are constantly monitoring the data at the local level and will continue to take precautionary action where it is necessary. I want to remind all Texans that each of us have a responsibility to help slow the spread of this virus, and I urge everyone to wear a mask, wash their hands regularly, practice social distancing, and stay home if possible.”

Under new order, Abbott said, all hospitals in Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces, and Webb must postpone surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician. 

Through proclamation, the governor can add or subtract from the list of counties included in the executive order to address surges in hospitalizations that may arise in other parts of the state.

Here is the executive order:

Additional powers

In his executive order, Abbott did not respond to requests from members of the Texas Congressional Delegation that he give additional powers to cities and counties so they can institute enforceable stay-at-home orders at their discretion.

Those asking for such powers include U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, Filemon Vela, Marc Veasey, Sylvia Garcia, Sheila Jackson Lee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Al Green, and Lloyd Doggett.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

“Municipalities and their local law enforcement agencies must be allowed to listen to their health care experts and institute whatever measures are needed to bring the coronavirus under control,” the members of Congress said.“Governor Abbott took important steps to mitigate the virus’ impact, but it’s not enough. The status quo is unacceptable and counties must be allowed to decide for themselves what is best for their citizens. ”

The members of Congress point out that with the Fourth of July weekend approaching and no public mask mandate, many beaches remain open and gatherings up to 100 people are still permitted under Gov. Abbott’s current orders. 

As of Sunday, June 28, Texas reported its sixth consecutive day of more than 5,000 coronavirus cases and reported 27 new deaths. 

National Guard 

Reps. Gonzalez and Vela are also asking Abbott to immediately assign National Guard forces to the Rio Grande Valley to “address the spiraling COVID-19 crisis in the region.”

The members of Congress point out that intensive care unit (ICU) beds has surpassed capacity in counties on the U.S.-Mexico border. Lacking space for COVID-19 patients in ICUs, they say, is forcing emergency rooms across the Valley to continue to care for those who need intensive treatment even as new patients arrive at higher and higher rates. 

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela

To assist health care personnel with the growing number of coronavirus cases, Gonzalez and Vela have urged Abbott to call on the White House to withdraw the current Presidentially-authorized 5,500 troops deployed at the border. Instead, they say, the emphasis should be on medical support and expanded hospital capacity in the Valley.

“In South Texas, we are rapidly reaching the point at which local resources will no longer be enough to provide hospital care for the growing COVID-19 caseload, and we urge the establishment of field hospitals and deployment of military personnel to prevent a humanitarian crisis in communities on the U.S.-Mexico border,” Vela and Gonzalez said.

“The deployment of military members with training, equipment and technology, along with deployable field hospitals, is urgently needed to address shortfalls, including testing, ICU beds, and emergency department capacity.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Valley Baptist Health System in Harlingen.

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