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Texas National Guard To Set Up Mobile Testing Sites

The Texas National Guard will set up new mobile testing sites across medically underserved parts of Texas as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday. More than 1,200 Texas National Guard members make up the COVID-19 mobile testing teams, with the first two 45-member teams deployed to Fredericksburg Houston News and Floresville. The other 23 teams will be “deployed to additional locations based on assessments made by DSHS,” according to a press release from Abbott.

Each team with be made up of 11 medical professionals and support staff, as well as 34 Texas National Guard soldiers. Each mobile testing site has the capacity to test 150 people per day, Abbott said.

Marvin E. Odum, former president of Shell Oil Company and former chief recovery officer for Houston’s Hurricane Harvey efforts, was tapped to be the city’s recovery czar Monday, after Harris County announced its own representative to help the region rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

The news was announced at a Monday afternoon press conference by Mayor Sylvester Turner, who charged Odum with coming up with plans in case of a virus resurgence, including contact tracing, and to work with a task force to work on ways to open up the local economy, and how to focus on underserved communities, similar to responsibilities laid out by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Monday morning.

Odum would also come up with ways to respond to future pandemics, Turner said.

The mayor did not give specifics on Odum’s authority, but did say the former oil executive was given “broad discretion” to come up with solutions and strategies to lift restrictions.

“Based on what Marvin did during Hurricane Harvey…the result was masterful, and it laid the groundwork for what we needed to do moving forward,” Turner said. “Quite frankly, if he speaks, he speaks for me.”

Some have been calling for the immediate lifting of travel and business restrictions. Turner himself said the city would likely have to furlough employees because of the economic impact on Houston.

But Turner, like Hidalgo, stressed that the virus was not yet under control, and that any decisions would have to be based on medical and scientific data.

“I, too, want to reopen our economy,” Turner said. “But if we are going to have that conversation now, we need to take a measured approach, and follow the guidance of medical professionals.”

A federal appeals court has blocked pill-induced abortions in Texas, the Texas Tribune reports:

Reversing course, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Press Release Distribution Service In Houston said access to pill-induced abortions can be restricted while the state fights the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision is the latest in a fast-moving court case that has ricocheted between the politically conservative appeals court and a federal district judge in Austin — and at times amounted to a near-total ban on abortions in Texas. In previous rulings, the New Orleans-based appeals court has allowed pill-induced abortions to proceed, as well as abortions for women nearing the legal limit to have one in Texas, which is 22 weeks after the last menstrual period.

Medication-induced abortions can be performed in Texas through the 10th week of pregnancy. It was not immediately clear how the court’s ruling will apply after Tuesday, when a strict bar on nonessential surgeries in Texas will be relaxed.

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