‘I’m not going to say our hands have been tied, but they have been’: Taylor Co. officials left with no recourse as ICU beds fill up

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Taylor County hospitals have reached the 15% threshold of patients being treated for COVID-19 across Trauma Service Area D (TSA D), but local authorities say they can’t do anything about it.

Additionally, 17 out of the 22 TSAs in Texas have crossed the same threshold.

Before Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting local governments from implementing any COVID-19 restrictions or mandates, the 15% threshold was the watermark to induce such restrictions or mandates.

“The governor has made it very clear there will be no shutdowns,” said Public Health Director Annette Lerma. 

“Citizens need to wake up to that, that we can’t jump in and rescue you anymore. You’re going to have to make some personal choices for yourselves,” said Taylor County Judge Downing Bolls. 

Judge Bolls and Lerma say the threshold doesn’t really mean anything anymore. 

“It doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of trigger points for anything specific,” said Lerma. 

That’s because the 15% threshold previously gave local authorities like Judge Bolls the ability to impose mask mandates or reduce restaurant and business capacities. 

“I’m not going to say our hands have been tied, but they have been,” Bolls said. “The governor has his approach he’s going to use for this, he is using his authority to manage this the way he thinks he needs to manage it, he’s acting within the law.” 

Since Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order, no local authority can impose any restrictions or mandates.

Lerma says what’s more concerning for Taylor County is ICU bed availability. 

“That the ICU beds in that same area, the 16 counties in Trauma Service Area D, is there are no ICU beds available,” said Lerma. 

Lerma says Taylor County is seeing a higher hospitalization rate because the delta variant is stronger. 

“The more this virus spreads, it will continue to mutate,” said Lerma. 

Which is why she says people need to get vaccinated. 

Lerma says the booster shot has been approved in Taylor County, however they are working on a way to get it added to their scheduling app.

She says patients need to consult their doctors before receiving a third shot. 

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