Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made it explicit on Sunday afternoon that he expects compliance with his executive order that he issued on Friday, and that includes fines or jail for those who don’t want to follow the orders around the coronavirus pandemic.
“I expect full compliance with that executive order,” Abbott said during a press conference in Austin. “Knowing this there are penalties for failure to comply with that executive order. Those penalties include fines up to $1,000, potential jail time of 180 days and potential mandatory quarantine.”
Abbott, however, was cautious about issuing a shelter-in-place order because 43 of Texas’ 254 counties had coronavirus cases. The potential losses to the economy are not easily assessed, but leaders here in Kerrville said they’re doing everything they can to comply.
“As hard as Gov. Abbott’s declaration was to hear, it was about slowing the spread of the coronavirus and therefore saving lives,” Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn said in a statement. “However, this crisis is already having a devastating impact on businesses. I am encouraged by citizens here and elsewhere finding ways to support the local businesses including the restaurants and bars they love. People know these are their friends and neighbors who are in danger of losing their livelihoods.”
Abbott rolled out two new executive orders aimed at helping the health care industry, including one that will allow nurses who haven’t graduated or have been licensed to start work immediately.
His first order was to postpone all procedures that are not medically necessary. Abbott also eased regulations about the number of patients that can be treated in a single room, which would increase the capacity of hospitals.
“This will increase their ability to treat a growing number of COVID-19 patients,” Abbott said.
He also declared that he was going to maximize the supply chain of medical supplies for the state. This is a public-private partnership that is designed to ensure the hospitals get the supplies and equipment they need.
The other order was to increase the capacity of nursing by easing licensing requirements in the short term. That order helps clear the way for retired nurses, those who have moved to Texas from out of state and student nurses to assist with the effort to fight coronavirus. The executive order allows 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.
That decision could directly impact students in Schreiner University’s nursing program, and retirees living in the Hill Country. It’s a position that’s supported by Wanda Sparks, the nursing program director at Schreiner University.
In the coming days and months, Texas will see an increasing need for nurses to assist with providing care to individuals impacted by COVID-19,” Sparks wrote in an email. “Nurses play a crucial role on the front line when it comes to assessing, identifying and implementing vital interventions. Nursing students at Schreiner University possess the knowledge, training and skills required to provide essential healthcare during these uniquely challenging times. They are critical thinkers, patient advocates and resilient to the unpredictable stress that comes with the job. Governor Abbott took an essential step by implementing the actions needed to expand the nursing workforce. Our nursing graduates are ready to rise to the occasion and want to give back to their community in a way that makes a lasting difference.”
Abbott said there were 334 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Texas, but said that he is also paying attention to Johns Hopkins University’s numbers, which say there are 566 confirmed cases in the state. Abbott said the Johns Hopkins numbers also reflect presumptive cases, and those who have been in quarantine at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
The number of tests has increased but Abbott said there are not enough testing resources released by federal health authorities.
Abbott said he’s also working to address the child care needs of thousands of health care workers, many who have been forced on for long hours during this crisis.