Governor Abbott Issues Executive Order To Loosen Restrictions On Surgeries

April 17, 2020 | Austin, Texas | Proclamation

WHEREAS, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, issued a disaster proclamation on March 13, 2020, certifying under Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) poses an imminent threat of disaster for all counties in the State of Texas; and

WHEREAS, on April 12, 2020, I issued a proclamation renewing the disaster declaration for all counties in Texas; and

WHEREAS, the Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, Dr. John Hellerstedt, has determined that COVID-19 represents a public health disaster within the meaning of Chapter 81 of the Texas Health and Safety Code; and

WHEREAS, I have issued numerous executive orders and suspensions of Texas laws in response to COVID-19, aimed at protecting the health and safety of Texans and ensuring an effective response to this disaster; and

WHEREAS, a shortage of hospital capacity or personal protective equipment would hinder efforts to cope with the COVID-19 disaster; and

WHEREAS, hospital capacity and personal protective equipment were being depleted by surgeries and procedures that were not medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient, contrary to recommendations from the President’s Coronavirus Task Force, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and

WHEREAS, various hospital licensing requirements would stand in the way of implementing increased occupancy in the event of surge needs for hospital capacity due to COVID-19; and

WHEREAS, I issued Executive Order GA-09 on March 22, 2020, in an effort to avoid a shortage of hospital capacity or personal protective equipment, and it is subject to expiration at 11:59 p.m. on April 21, 2020, absent further action by the governor; and

WHEREAS, the “governor is responsible for meeting … the dangers to the state and people presented by disasters” under Section 418.011 of the Texas Government Code, and the legislature has given the governor broad authority to fulfill that responsibility; and

WHEREAS, under Section 418.012, the “governor may issue executive orders … hav[ing] the force and effect of law;” and

WHEREAS, under Section 418.016(a), the “governor may suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business or the orders or rules of a state agency if strict compliance with the provisions, orders, or rules would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster;” and

WHEREAS, under Section 418.173, failure to comply with any executive order issued during the COVID-19 disaster is an offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both fine and confinement.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Texas, do hereby order the following on a statewide basis beginning at 11:59 p.m. on April 21, 2020, and continuing until 11:59 p.m. on May 8, 2020:

All licensed health care professionals and all licensed health care facilities shall postpone 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; provided, however, that this prohibition shall not apply to either of the following:

  • any procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster; or
  • any surgery or procedure performed in a licensed health care facility that has certified in writing to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission both:
    (1) that it will reserve at least 25% of its hospital capacity for treatment of COVID-19 patients, accounting for the range of clinical severity of COVID-19 patients; and (2) that it will not request any personal protective equipment from any public source, whether federal, state, or local, for the duration of the COVID-19 disaster. 

I hereby continue the suspension of the following provisions to the extent necessary to implement increased occupancy in the event of surge needs for hospital capacity due to COVID-19:

25 TAC Sec. 133.162(d)(4)(A)(iii)(I);

25 TAC Sec. 133.163(f)(1)(A)(i)(II)–(III);

25 TAC Sec. 133.163(f)(1)(B)(i)(III)–(IV);

25 TAC Sec. 133.163(m)(1)(B)(ii);

25 TAC Sec. 133.163(t)(1)(B)(iii)–(iv);

25 TAC Sec. 133.163(t)(1)(C);

25 TAC Sec. 133.163(t)(5)(B)–(C); and

Any other pertinent regulations or statutes, upon written approval of the Office of the Governor.

This executive order shall remain in effect and in full force until 11:59 p.m. on May 8, 2020, unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor.

Given under my hand this the 17th day of April, 2020. 

Governor Greg Abbott