With COVID-19 cases continuing to climb, Texas is easing back on its aggressive reopening plan, Gov. Greg Abbott announced today.
Businesses that have already been permitted to reopen may continue to do so, but plans to increase occupancy or reduce safety precautions are now on hold. Additionally, elective surgeries have been suspended in four of the state’s largest counties, in an effort to preserve bed space for COVID-19 patients.
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“As we experience an increase in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, 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,” said Gov. Abbott in a statement, encouraging Texans to wear masks and practice social distancing.
“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” the governor added. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”
For now, Texas is in stage three of its reopening plan, which it entered in early June. During this phase, retail stores are able to operate at half capacity, along with virtually all other businesses such as malls, movie theaters and gyms. Meanwhile, restaurants can operate at 75% capacity. Plans to increase limits are temporarily on hold.
The decision to press pause on reopening comes as Texas hospitalizations and new cases have continued to soar. On Wednesday, hospitalizations in the state set a record for the 13th day in a row, with the Texas Department of State Health Services recording 4,389 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals. The state also saw its largest single-day toll of new cases, with 5,551 confirmed. And the upward trend is not limited to Texas: According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins, there were 36,880 new coronavirus cases recorded nationally on Wednesday — just above a previous peak of 36,739 on April 24.
Like Texas, Florida and Arizona recorded a record number of cases Wednesday, with more than 20 U.S. states seeing a rise in infections. At the same time, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — which have enforced strict social distancing and been slower to ease restrictions — have seen their curves flattened after the tristate area initially was a global coronavirus hot spot. In response to the climbing cases elsewhere, the three states have instituted a 14-day mandatory quarantine for travelers coming from eight states seeing significant spread, among them Texas, Florida and Arizona.