Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state will be opening a 250-bed field hospital at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Austin, Texas on March 29, 2020 at the Texas State Capitol downtown Dallas.
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Texas is allowing more businesses, including retail stores, gyms, and restaurants, to move ahead with reopening plans after the number of coronavirus cases and hospital stays fell over the summer.
Abbott said the state has been divided into 22 regions where officials will monitor hospital capacity and coronavirus cases. In 19 of the 22 regions where Covid-19-related hospital stays account for less than 15% of all hospital stays, more companies that reopened at 50% capacity will be allowed to expand to 75% capacity as of Monday, Abbott said .
This includes "all retail stores, all restaurants, all office buildings, all manufacturing facilities, all museums and libraries, and all gyms," he said. With immediate effect, hospitals in these regions can resume voting. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will be allowed to reopen for visits from Sept. 24 as long as they don't have a coronavirus outbreak, he said.
"Since the end of July, the spread of Covid-19 has decreased steadily and significantly. The number of new cases and new hospitalizations has been reduced by more than two-thirds. Just yesterday we had the lowest number of hospitalizations in the last three months," Abbott said.
The three regions – Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, and Victoria – that are banned from reopening are in the southern part of the state. Bars will remain closed to all regions as officials try to find ways to reopen them while making sure coronavirus transmission can be curbed, Abbott said.
Thursday's announcement marks the first time the governor has pushed ahead with reopening stores since some of them, including bars, were able to reopen with limited capacity in May. Cases in Texas began to rise after Memorial Day weekend, however, and in late June Abbott was forced to close the state's bars and reduce capacity at restaurants that he said are pushing the falls.
On July 2, Abbott ordered residents across the state, with a few exceptions, to wear face-coverings in public places, and gave local mayors and district judges the authority to restrict some outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people. Abbott said Thursday that Texans "need to continue the safe practices that slowed the spread this summer," including social distancing and wearing masks.
"Covid still exists and most Texans remain vulnerable," Abbott said during a press conference. "If we fully reopen Texas with no borders and safe practices, it could result in unsustainable spikes in Covid that would require the opportunity to be forced to ratchet back down."
As of Wednesday, Texas had reported 4,186 new cases per day based on a seven-day moving average – an increase of more than 14% from the week before, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
At the height of the state's outbreak in July, Texas was reporting a 7-day average high of more than 10,500 new cases per day. According to Johns Hopkins, Texas is second only to California with 696,800 US states with a total of 696,800 reported Covid-19 cases.