State of Texas: COVID-19 hot spots are getting harder to contain


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Governor Greg Abbott says the state’s key focus recently has been surging medical resources into the Rio Grande Valley where COVID-19 cases and deaths have been spiking.

“When the state knew there was a long-term care facility or meatpacking plant — it’s one spot. You can go in and globally test everybody,” said Dr. Ogechika Alozie with the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force.

The hot spots now, he explained, are based more on community spread.

“When you have multiple zip codes that are having 200, 300, 400 or 500 cases in that area, [it’s] much harder,” Dr. Alozie said.

“We essentially had a campfire, and it’s a lot easier to put out a campfire. We didn’t put it out completely, and so the embers from that campfire now spread into the forest, and we have a full blaze,” Dr. Alozie added.

Making Room at Hospitals

Doctor John Zerwas, who resigned as a state representative to become vice-chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas system, is advising the governor on hospital capacity and the medical supply chain.

“So we do have some hotels that are on contract with us, that we’re using to try to decompress the hospitals to create space for people that are more ill”, Zerwas said. “We’re looking at things like nursing homes and long term acute care hospitals. These types of places, rehabilitation hospitals, outside the hospital that can accept the patient, making room for somebody who really requires the skill set in an acute, acute situation.”

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen

Retiring Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has played a very active role in the Governor’s COVID-19 response and messaging.

In an interview with Wes Rapaport, the state representative shares his thoughts about opening schools, the reason for a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and why his perspective matters.

Cornavirus Response

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday found that 47% of voters approve of Governor Greg Abbott’s handling of the coronoavirus pandemic while 48% disapprove.

Abbott’s overall job approval rating is only slightly higher at 48% approving and 44% disapproving.

Texas Attorney General ruling on nursing home data

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office ruled the Texas Health and Human Services Commission should disclose most of its data on COVID-19 in nursing homes to the public, according to a July 6 ruling.

Paxton’s office rejected most of the arguments the commission made to conceal COVID-19 outbreak data related to nursing homes, according to a news release from the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, which has fought for the records. The information that may be released includes the names of specific nursing homes with COVID-19 cases, according to FOIFT and the AG’s ruling.

If Texas Capitol remains closed, lobbyists say special interests will thrive away from public view

With the state’s biennial legislative session approaching, and the Texas Capitol still closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, some lobbyists say special interests could have an even greater role in the coming year.

“Everything happens (at Ninth and Congress),” said Bill Miller, a veteran Austin lobbyist who represents professional sports franchises like the Houston Texans and Houston Astros in discussions with state health officials about returning to the field. “If I can’t be there or you can’t be there, we’re still going to talk but it’s going to be less evident.”

“People are going to wonder more about what’s going on and how it’s working.”

Funeral homes brace for rising COVID-19 deaths, prepare to share resources

There’s a call for funeral homes to share resources as coronavirus deaths surge in parts of the state.

The Texas Funeral Service Commission, which regulates funeral homes, wants to know how funeral homes are doing when it comes to capacity to store bodies and with personal protective gear.

New COVID-19 antiviral trial underway in Austin

The antiviral drug Merimepodib, originally developed to treat hepatitis-C, is now part of a Phase II study at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. The hospital has begun enrolling patients as part of the trial. The drug is being used in conjunction with the antiviral Remdesivir, the primary treatment being used across the country.

Merimepodib, in a lab, showed the ability to work with Remdesivir, boosting the viral fighting ability of Remdesivir.  

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