Column by Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa
There is no doubt that the best thing all American’s can do right now to help contain the spread of COVID-19 is to stay at home and practice social distancing. In Texas, I support the leadership of our local officials, who in coordination with their public health experts, have led the efforts in our community to implement shelter in place orders. We must all continue working together to flatten the curve and get this health crisis behind us so that we can safely get Texans back to work and have the Texas economy thrive once again.
However, to be successful, this effort requires everyone in our country doing their part. I appreciate our congressional leaders urging Governor Greg Abbott to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, which is accomplished with Executive Order GA-14 issued on March 31. While this is the right action for Texas, what about the other states in our country that have not yet made that order? Our congressional leadership should focus their efforts on urging President Donald Trump and his administration to weigh in more heavily and demand a nationwide stay-at-home order.
This Sunday, in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams urged governors who have not yet issued a stay-at-home order to at least enforce restrictions for one week in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. He also stated that “we really need to understand that if we want to flatten that curve and get through to the other side, everyone needs to do their part.”
It would also be helpful if the federal government was more effective in doing their job. Our Texas leadership, Governor Greg Abbott, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services Dr. John Hellerstedt, Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management Nim Kidd, and now the recently appointed Supply Chain Strike Force, have been working tirelessly to increase our supplies of personal protective equipment, testing kits, hospital beds, and other medical supplies. Texans are competing with other states for supplies because the support from the federal government has been inept.
Luckily for Texas, and due to the support of the Texas Legislature, our state has the resources to go out and procure our own supplies. That said, the fight for limited supplies should not be a competition. As Americans, we are all in this together. To help our country, the power of President Trump and his administration could make a significant difference if they could help ramp up production of health care equipment. Our Texas congressional delegation should be urging President Trump to use his full authority to provide those in the frontlines the equipment they need to properly respond to this crisis.
In Texas, our state’s leadership has acted swiftly to focus our priority on ensuring we have the proper health infrastructure and personnel to respond to COVID-19. Governor Abbott has waived hospital licensing rules and had the Texas Health and Human Services Commission adopt an emergency rule to meet Texas’ need for additional hospital capacity. Additionally, there have been waivers to fast-track the temporary licensing of out-of-state physicians, physician assistants, certain retired physicians, nurses, and other license types to assist in Texas’ response to this crisis. Just recently, Governor Abbott also gave local medical directors for licensed EMS providers the authority to permit individuals who are qualified, though not formally certified, to provide critical emergency response services for patients treated and transported by the EMS provider.
Also, the recently appointed Supply Chain Task Force is already making a difference. At a press conference on Friday, Governor Abbott stated that the strike force distributed more than 1.4 million face masks and 2 million gloves across the state. He also said that hospital bed availability in Texas has increased over 140% since March 18th. Governor Abbott also announced that Texas hospitals are set to receive a shipment of 10,000 rapid COVID-19 tests from Abbott Laboratories, with the number to grow in the coming weeks.
As challenging as it is for many to follow the guidelines and recommendations to stay-at-home, there is nothing more important right now than to do what is best in the interest of public health and to follow Dr. Anthony Fauci’s medical advice nationwide. To get our Texas and U.S. workforce back to business, our congressional leaders should urge President Trump to order a nationwide stay-at-home order and use his full authority to help provide our states with much needed medical supplies. I am confident that working together we will get through the challenges of dealing with COVID-19.