September 21, 2020
On September 17, 2020, Texas Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA-31, effective immediately, which alleviates certain COVID-19 restrictions related to elective surgeries and hospital capacity issued under previous Executive Orders.
Executive Order GA-31 reduces the percentage of hospital capacity that licensed Texas hospitals must reserve for the treatment of COVID-19 patients from 15%, as mandated in Executive Order GA-19, to 10%. Any hospital which is part of a hospital system consisting of multiple member hospitals may reserve less than 10% of its capacity for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, provided the cumulative capacity reserved by the hospital system within the same Trauma Service Area is at least 10%.
However, Executive Order GA-31 does require Texas licensed hospitals located in areas of high hospitalization to continue postponing all surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary to diagnose or correct a serious medical condition of, or to preserve the life of, a patient who without timely performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician. This prohibition still does not apply to any surgery or procedure that if performed in accordance with commonly accepted standards of clinical practice would not deplete hospital capacity needed to cope with COVID-19. The phrase “areas with high hospitalizations” is defined in Executive Order GA-31 to mean “any Trauma Service Area that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID- 19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of all hospitalized patients exceeds 15 percent, until such time as the Trauma Service Area has seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of all hospitalized patients is 15 percent or less.” The list of Trauma Service Areas with high hospitalizations, which as of the date of this article does not include Bexar, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Harris, Tarrant or Travis Counties, maintained by the Texas Department of State Health Services and updated daily, is available here. Executive Order GA-31 supersedes only Executive Order GA-19 (relating to hospital capacity during the COVID-19 disaster) and Executive Order GA-27 (relating to the need for increased hospital capacity during the COVID-19 disaster).