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Governor Abbott takes action to expand nursing workforce, updates from COVID-19 during press conference

Texas Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference on Sunday March 3; in his opening statements, the Governor noted that, according to the State Department of Health Services, Texas currently has 334 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 43 counties with 6 confirmed deaths. Abbott continued to mention that approximately 8,700 people have been tested. Although, as Abbott stated, the percentage of test coming back positive are less than 10%, Abbott ensures that the number will rise with more access to COVID-19 testing units. 

 “We are testing to the full extent of testing capabilites at this time," Abbott stated during his press conference. 

Governor Greg Abbott has also waived several regulations to help meet Texas’ growing need for nurses as the state responds to the COVID-19 virus. The Governor’s actions will expand Texas’ active nursing workforce by doing the following:

  • Allowing temporary permit extensions to practice for graduate nurses and graduate vocational nurses who have yet to take the licensing exam.
  • Allowing students in their final year of nursing school to meet their clinical objectives by exceeding the 50% limit on simulated experiences.
  • Allowing nurses with inactive licenses or retired nurses to reactivate their licenses.

"In the coming weeks and months, Texas will continue to see a growing need for medical professionals to help us respond to these unique and challenging times," said Governor Abbott. "With these actions, Texas is taking an important step to meet that need. Nurses are essential to our ability to test for this virus, provide care for COVID-19 patients, and to continue providing other essential health care services. Suspending these regulations will allow us to bring additional skilled nurses into the workforce to assist with our efforts and enhance our COVID-19 response."

The Governor moved on to questions raised about whether Texas as a state must immediately go into a shelter in place status. 

"We need to do several things," said Abbott. "First, we need to see the level of effectiveness of the executive order and second understand this, I am governor of 254 counties in the state of Texas. More than 200 of those counties still have zero cases of people testing positive of COVID-19."

He continued, "What may be right for larger urban areas may not be right at this particular place and time for the 200 counties that have zero cases of COVID-19. As a result, my suggestion is this- local officials fully understand, local officials have the authority to implement more strict standards than what I as governor have ordered here in the State of Texas. They already have the full authority on the local level to implement those stricter standands and if they choose to do so, I would applaud them for doing so but at this time it is not the appropriate approach to mandate that same strict standard across the state. Especially at a time when we have yet to see the results coming out of my most recent executive order. With that said, I will always remain flexible and on a moments notice take whatever strategies are needed at a state-wide level to insure we are doing all we can to combat the expasion of COVID-19."

The following orders were issued by Gov. Abbott on Thursday, March 19:

  • Order No. 1: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, every person in Texas shall avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.
  • Order No. 2: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or visiting gyms or massage parlors; provided, however, that the use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options is allowed and highly encouraged throughout the limited duration of this executive order.
  • Order No. 3: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
  • Order No. 4: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, schools shall temporarily close.

Dr.John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Department of State Health Services also made a statement during the press conference: "It is very clear, based on the data that we have, that we are in the early stages of community spread of COVID_19 in certain communities in texas. Now is the time, we have the opportunity, if we do what we’ve been asked to do together as Texans we can have the opportunity to dramatically decrease the spread of COVID-19 in our state. That is what we need to do. That is the primary objective.” 

Abbott made a closing statement: " In the meantime, one of the most important things we can all do–we everyone in the state of texas to know and to understand the executive order that I have already issued. 
•Do not gather in groups of more than 10.
•All Restaurants and bars are closed
•We strongly urge you to patronize your local restaurants through take out, delivery or whatever source you can so that we can continue that as a very important food supply source."

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