Gov. Greg Abbott addresses a news conference at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, about the coronavirus pandemic Monday, June 22, 2020. Abbott said he has no plans to shut down the state again. "We must find ways to return to our daily routines as well as finding ways to coexist with COVID-19," Abbott said. Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP
Governor pauses phased reopening as state’s coronavirus spike continues
Gov. Greg Abbott took multiple steps Thursday to free up hospital capacity across Texas and slow the spread of COVID-19 as the state continues to see a spike in cases.
Abbott announced a temporary pause of Texas’s phased reopening as the state saw its third-straight day of over 5,000 newly reported virus cases Thursday. Hospitalizations also continue to rise throughout the state. The state reported a new record high 4,739 Texans hospitalized by COVID-19 Thursday.
“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,” Abbott said in a press release. “... The temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”
The temporary pause, however, does not impact businesses that were already permitted to reopen under the governor’s reopening strategy, such as restaurants, bars, barber shops, malls and bowling alleys.
“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down business,” Abbott said.
The governor's new order comes amid a concerning rise in COVID-19 cases across Texas. The governor described the increase in new diagnoses as a “massive outbreak,” in an interview with KFDA-TV in Amarillo on Wednesday. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 131,917 Texans have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and there have been 2,296 fatalities. The DSHS estimates that there have been 74,496 recoveries.
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra has been critical of the governor’s reopening as the county has seen a large rise in COVID-19 cases.
“The governor began reopening Texas on May 1st and many took that to mean that the coronavirus was no longer a threat,” Becerra said in a press conference on June 18. “The governor believed by recommending social distancing, face masks and hand washing, our citizens would take it seriously. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened … It is no coincidence that as we relaxed our good practices, we started to see positive cases increase.”
Becerra recently issued an order requiring Hays County residents to wear masks in public places where social distancing isn’t possible as case counts continue to follow the state’s upward trend. The county has recorded 1,946 new cases since May 30 — 2,275 total cases and 1,853 active cases as of Thursday. San Marcos has seen the largest increase in COVID-19 cases in the same time span with 1,286 new cases. Hospitalizations have also seen an uptick with 33 new hospitalizations since the beginning of June. There are currently 23 county residents hospitalized by the disease and there have been 62 total hospitalization. The county has reported five COVID-19 fatalities since the first diagnosis of the disease within Hays County on March 14.
The governor also issued an executive order Thursday that puts a halt on elective surgeries in the state’s four largest counties — Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis.
“As Texas faces a rise in COVID-19 cases, we are focused on both slowing the spread of this virus and maintaining sufficient hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients,” Abbott said. “These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and today’s action is a precautionary step to help ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients.”
The governor’s executive order directs hospitals in the state’s four counties to suspend all elective surgeries and procedures that are not immediately necessary to correct medical conditions or that would preserve the life of a patient.
Abbott said Texans can do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly and following social distancing practices.
COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks for most people.