Gov. Greg Abbott announced the latest phase of Texas’ reopening on Thursday.
Businesses will be allowed to open at 75 percent capacity so long as COVID-19 patients are only 15 percent or less of total hospital patients within their region.
Texas has 22 hospital regions currently used to track the spread of COVID. Three are excluded from the latest order, set to go into effect on Monday: Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, and Victoria.
Businesses allowed to reopen with increased capacity include restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, gyms, exercise facilities and classes, museums, and libraries.
Abbott said bars will remain closed. They have remained closed since June, when the governor ordered them closed again after the state saw a spike in the number of cases.
While Texas’ infection rate, or the share of coronavirus tests that come back positive, has declined since July, it is still above 5 percent, the benchmark recommended by the World Health Organization.
The WHO recommends that 5 percent positivity rate be held for two weeks before reopening. The same 5 percent benchmark is being recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when it comes to reopening schools.
The latest state data shows Texas’ positivity rate is at 7 percent. Two weeks ago it was 10 percent.
“Gov. Abbott’s press conference today was notable for what he didn’t say,” said Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner (D- Grand Prairie) reacting to the announcement. “There was no mention of a contact tracing program, no mention of improving the state’s unreliable data and no mention of expanding Medicaid to increase access to health care for the millions of Texans who are uninsured.”
Abbott’s continued reopening of the state comes as new polling data shows he’s underwater with Texans. Only 35 percent of Texans approve of Abbott’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the late August poll.
The latest cumulative state data shows 14,478 Texans have died from the virus and 674,772 confirmed cases have been reported.
“The coronavirus crisis in Texas never had to be this bad,” Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia said in a prepared statement Thursday. “Instead, Donald Trump and Greg Abbott refused to listen to doctors and experts and prematurely put Texans at-risk for their own perceived political gain. Since Abbott’s last press conference, more than 13,000 Texans have died, and more than 600,000 have contracted the virus.”
Photo: Dan Tian/Xinhua via Getty Images
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at email@example.com