Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Thursday that the state will pause any further reopening as the state continues to report record increases in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Businesses that were permitted to open under the previous phases can continue to operate at the designated occupancy outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services, according to statement from Abbott’s office.
“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business,” Abbott said in the release.
Many businesses in Texas were granted permission to reopen in May. Restaurants, gyms, retailers, professional sports, bars and other venues were allowed to reopen with reduced capacity. It wasn’t immediately made clear which businesses wouldn’t be allowed to be reopen moving forward or when the order would be lifted.
Earlier on Thursday, Abbott ordered all licensed hospitals in the hard-hit Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties to postpone elective procedures in order to protect hospital capacity for Covid-19 patients. Those counties include the state’s largest cities — Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin. There are currently 4,389 Covid-19 patients hospitalized statewide in Texas, up from 2,793 a week ago, according to the state’s health department.
“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,” Abbott said in his executive order.
Texas is one of the states in the American West and South experiencing a recent surge in Covid-19 cases. On Wednesday, the state reported more than 5,500 additional Covid-19 cases.
On Tuesday, Abbott recommended residents stay home unless they have to venture outside. He has consistently urged residents to follow social distancing guidelines and to wear a mask when in public, saying that it “will help us to keep Texas open.”
“Unless you do need to go out, the safest place for you is at your home,” he said during an interview with KBTX-TV.
Abbott previously warned that “additional measures are going to be necessary” and the state will have to take “tougher actions” if the number of cases and hospitalizations continued to climb at current rates into July. He has previously defended the state’s reopening plan by saying the state’s hospitals remain at the lowest threat level and have the ability to add surge capacity if necessary.
“If we were to experience another doubling of those numbers over the next month, that would mean we’re in an urgent situation where tougher actions will be required to make sure that we do contain the spread of Covid-19,” Abbott said at a press conference on Monday.