Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced his next wave of reopenings designed to restart the Texas economy during the coronavirus pandemic, saying child care facilities can reopen immediately, bars can open Friday with limited capacity and sporting events can return without fans at the end of the month.
Abbott also said he would permit restaurants to operate at 50% capacity starting Friday, up from 25% that’s allowed now. Hopkins County restaurants were already allowed to operate at 50% due to having less than five active cases.
At the same time, Abbott exempted two hotspots — Amarillo and El Paso — from his latest decisions, saying they would need to wait a week.
Abbott’s news conference came 18 days after he started a phased reopening of the state, starting with letting restaurants, stores, movie theaters and malls open up at 25% capacity. He then allowed barbershops and salons to reopen May 8 under certain restrictions. Monday was the first day gyms were allowed to open up, also under restrictions.
Abbott’s news conference Monday came a day after the total coronavirus cases in Texas increased to at least 47,784, including 1,336 deaths, according to the latest data from the state Department of Health Services. Out of Texas’ 254 counties, 222 are reporting cases.
The number of cases — and deaths — keeps rising in Texas, though the testing tally has also gone up, reaching 693,276 as of Sunday. Abbott, meanwhile, continues to highlight the relatively stable number of hospitalizations and declining infection rate.
While testing has ramped up, it is still failing to regularly reach Abbott’s own goal of 30,000 tests a day. Over the last week, the state averaged 25,614 tests per day.
However, in recent days, it was revealed that the state is including an unknown quantity of antibody tests in its testing total, casting uncertainty over the reliability of that data for the time being.
Amarillo has been a hotspot due to outbreaks at its meatpacking plants, and earlier this month, the state dispatched one of its Surge Response Teams to the city to try to get things under control. Of the 1,801 new cases that Texas reported Saturday, over 700 were linked to the Amarillo meatpacking plants, according to Abbott’s office.
In El Paso, the situation has deteriorated enough that the county judge, Ricardo Samaniego, and other local officials asked Abbott last week to exempt the county from the reopening process.
Article by Patrick Svitek, texastribune.org