Today, Gov. Abbott met with state and federal health officials at the State Operations Center in Austin to discuss working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a contingency plan for the coronavirus in Texas.
Accompanied by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Abbott spoke to the press and began by saying he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence earlier today, where he was given an update about what the federal government is doing and how the administration will be coordinating with state and local entities moving forward.
Gov. Abbott emphasized that Texas state agencies have been working on this for “well over a month now.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is the lead agency working closely with the Texas Division of Emergency Management and other state agencies to coordinate with local health departments and providers.
DSHS is currently operating a State Medical Operations Center (SMOC) to serve as a touchpoint for local entities and other state agencies working to mitigate the effects of the novel coronavirus.
Emphasizing that the virus has not spread in the state, Abbott said, “I’m not saying that’s happening. I just want you to know that we’re preparing.”
Gov. Abbott continued by emphasizing that Texas has response plans in place from experiences with past challenges, including H1N1 and Ebola.
“We are preparing for all possible contingencies… I cannot emphasize that enough, (a spread) has not happened,” Abbott said.
Regarding Texas’ response to those repatriated to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Abbott, joined by Rear Admiral Nancy Knight, stated that capacity had been established at the Texas Infectious Disease Center in San Antonio to include rooms and treatment areas isolated from other patients.
The facility will care for patients with minor symptoms being tested for the virus, individuals who tested positive for the virus, and those who are recovering but are “no longer clinically sick enough to remain in the hospital.”
To date, 10 positive cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Texas: two from Wuhan cohorts and eight from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, according to Admiral Knight.
Earlier this month, Lackland Air Force Base announced its designation by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DOD) to serve as a quarantine site for those affected by the coronavirus.
Most recently, more than 300 Americans aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off the coast off the Japan for potential exposure to the coronavirus were flown to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and Travis Air Force Base in California for treatment and testing.
Last week, Texas Senator John Cornyn (R) met with city and public health officials in San Antonio to discuss preparations being made to deal with the virus.
“We know that the Mayor and the City Councilpersons were expressing concerns to me that local health care facilities were not really adequate, given the need for specialized treatment and isolation for what could be a worst-case scenario,” Sen. Cornyn said.
“We’re in the process of considering a budget emergency request for as much as $8 billion in additional money to be spending on this outbreak,” Cornyn continued, vowing to keep Texans safe however possible.
Earlier this week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) announced his intentions to call a hearing examining the role of commercial air travel in spreading the virus.
Senator Cruz planned to discuss the implementation of additional screening procedures at airports as well as a travel ban to China.
More information about state and local contingency plans for the virus can be found here.
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Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.