Coronavirus: Governor Announces Another 'Open Texas' Round

Tony Cantu

AUSTIN, TX — Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday announced another round of business reopenings as he seeks to reignite a state economy stalled by spread of the coronavirus.

Effective immediately, all businesses in Texas will be able to operate at up to 50 capacity, with "very limited exceptions," Abbott said in a prepared statement. Moreover, business that previously have been able to operate at 100 percent capacity may continue to do so, and most outdoor areas are not subject to capacity limits, he added.

Yet even while announcing the expansion, Abbott offered a caveat of sorts: All businesses and customers should continue to follow minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Such safeguards include keeping a six-foot distance from others and wearing protective facial coverings to mitigate potential spread of the illness — even as Abbott previously waived the mandate to make the measure optional.

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"The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe,” Abbott said in announcing the expansion. "As anticipated, the new positive cases that we are seeing are largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants."

View the Governor's Executive Order

He credited a specialized, state-created team in claiming containment of illness clusters: "Thanks to the effectiveness of our Surge Response Teams, we have the ability to contain those hot spots while opening up Texas for business," Abbott said. "If we remain vigilant, we will continue to mitigate the spread of this virus, protect public health, and get more Texans back to work and their daily activities."

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In further justifying hte move, Abbott noted that between May 26 and June 2, more than 45 percent of new cases came from jails or prisons, meat packing plants and nursing homes. He added there are currently 1,487 Texans hospitalized due to COVID-19, 20,679 active cases of the illness across the state and 45,858 Texans reported to have recovered from the illness.

Abbott provided a timeline for the latest economic expansion:

Effective June 3:

  • All businesses currently operating at 25 percent capacity can expand their occupancy to 50 percent with certain exceptions.
  • Bars and similar establishments may increase their capacity to 50 percent as long as patrons are seated.
  • Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with less than 1,000 confirmed positive cases may open at 50 percent capacity.
  • Restaurants may expand their maximum table size from 6 to 10 persons.

Effective June 12:

  • Restaurants may expand their occupancy levels to 75 percent.
  • Counties with 10 or less active COVID-19 cases may expand their occupancy limits to 75 percent. Counties that fit this category but have not previously filed an attestation with the Department of State Health Services will need to do so.

Effective June 19:

  • Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with more than 1,000 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 may open at 50 percent capacity.

Additional Openings:

Special provisions have been made for outdoor gatherings, such as Fourth of July celebrations, but it is imperative that local officials and public health officials collaborate on safe standards. These provisions are included in the Governor's Executive Order and are also available on the Open Texas webpage.

Further Protocols

All businesses should continue to follow the minimum standard health protocols from DSHS. For details and a full list of guidelines, openings, and relevant dates, visit http://open.texas.gov.

Reminders for those going out

  • Individuals are encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings.
  • People should not be in groups greater than ten when possible.
  • People over the age of 65 are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible.
  • People are still asked to avoid nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities.

On the same day of the announcement, the Texas Department of Health Services reported the number of cases of the coronavirus grew by 1,703 — bringing the total number of cases to 68,271. In the same 24-hour period, 36 more people died of the respiratory illness in bringing the fatality count to 1,734.

Another 1,703 new illness cases were reported on Wednesday preceded by another 1,688 on Tuesday. Monday saw considerably fewer cases, with 593, but that was on the heels of a Sunday that saw a spike of 1,949 new coronavirus cases — the biggest single-day increase to date since the onset of illness in Texas.

This article originally appeared on the Austin Patch