BY CHRIS EDWARDS
AUSTIN – On Monday Governor Greg Abbott announced the next phase of business reopenings in the ongoing plan to reopen the state.
Abbott said as of Monday, under the second phase of the plan, restaurants can increase their occupancies to 50%, and additional services and activities that remained closed during the first phase may open as long as restricted occupancy levels and minimum standard health protocols are observed. Also, the expanded occupancies will be limited to areas that have shown no flare-ups in COVID-19 cases since the first phase of the plan was announced earlier in the month.
In a news conference on Monday afternoon to outline the new phase, Abbott said the percentage of positive tests for the virus has continued to drop and added that the availability of testing has increased statewide.
Some of the businesses and services that were closed through phase one, but now able to open as of Monday are childcare centers, massage and personal-care centers and youth clubs.
Additionally, on Friday, Abbott said bars/nightclubs, tattoo parlors, craft breweries, water parks and indoor entertainment venues will be allowed to reopen at 25% occupancy. In his new order, Abbott reminded Texans to maintain safe distancing among parties. The 25% capacity on the venues allowed to open Friday does not include the outdoor areas, said Abbott.
Abbott made mention of certain counties that have experienced surges in cases and will be delayed until May 29 in the new reopenings. Those counties include El Paso, Randall, Potter, Moore and Deaf Smith.
Abbott said surge response teams are actively working to contain the outbreaks in those areas, with increased testing.
In Tyler County, the total number of confirmed cases stands at 11. According to the county’s office of emergency management, the most recent case is that of a 56-year-old Warren man. Out of the 11 reported cases, to date, seven have recovered and four are still active. At the statewide level, there were 47,784 total reported cases and 1,336 deaths, according to the most recent data from the Department of State Health Services, with 222 of the 254 counties reporting.
During his news conference, Abbott touted a large number of recovered cases from the virus, and in a tweet, stated that Texas ranks third in the nation for the number of recoveries, which is at 28,371 at press time.
Although the number of cases has risen, the number of tests administered has done the same, averaging more than 25,000 per day. Abbott said that the numbers are moving in a positive trend, but the timetable of the phased process has not been without critics. Some legislators have questioned whether or not Abbott has acted too hastily.
Gene Wu, a state representative for District 137, tweeted that Abbott is taking “a gamble” with the reopening and added “If he’s wrong, and we’re right – lots of people will be dead.”
Others, like Rep. James White noted that the governor is following data points pointing toward decreasing rates, and that vulnerable Texans are continued to be protected. White published a post to Facebook on Monday night with the message “Texas is opening for business. The people demand their economic freedom and data determines it.”
Another round of reopenings is scheduled for Saturday, May 31 with professional sporting events (minus in-person spectators) and day youth camps among them.
Here is a list of some of the reopenings by date:
• Childcare Centers (May 18)
• Massage and Personal-Care Centers (May 18)
• Youth Clubs (May 18)
• Rodeo and Equestrian Events (May 22)
• Bowling Alleys, Bingo Halls, Simulcast Racing, and Skating Rinks (May 22)
• Bars (May 22)
• Aquariums and Natural Caverns (May 22)
• Zoos (May 29)
• Day Youth Camps (May 31)
• Overnight Youth Camps (May 31)
• Youth Sports (May 31)