The suspension of elective surgeries is created to protect hospital space in the Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio areas.
Going forward, Abbott can by proclamation add or subtract the names of any other counties in response to surges in other parts of the state.
"COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas and it must be corralled", stated Abbott.
Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, the largest pediatric hospital in the US said Tuesday that it was admitting adult patients across its campuses to free up more hospital bed space in the Houston area.
"We are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families", Abbott said in a statement. There were 5,996 new cases, another record, with 47 deaths - the highest total since May 20. Hospitals and care facilities would then employ their surge plans to build out additional capacity.
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Abbott noted he always said that if positivity rates again exceeded 10%, he'd consider that a "red flag" that required action to limit reopening of businesses and public activities.
US state of Texas reported nearly 6,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, setting a new record for daily confirmed cases for the third time this week.
His order suspends elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties - home to the respective cities of San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Austin. The number of COVID-19-positive hospital patients in Harris County, which encompasses Houston, has almost tripled since May 31. After about a month, the state eased those restrictions. Hotez called Texas' numbers "absolutely horrifying" and said they were an indication that the state opened up before it was safe to do so. It directs hospitals in those counties to "postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient's physician".
On Wednesday, Dr. Peter Hotez, a nationally recognized infections disease expert and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told the Houston Chronicle that the sharp uptick means Texas has no choice but to implement "a significant level of social distancing".
Also reporting record rises in cases this week were Alabama, Arizona, California, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming.