Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday a temporary pause on the state’s economic reopening amid a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
“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 statement. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses.”
Texas entered phase three of its reopening plan on June 3, which allowed businesses across the state to operate at 50 percent of their normal capacity. The following week, Abbott announced that restaurants could operate at 75% capacity.
Texas has seen a 70% increase in coronavirus cases in the past week, according to Axios, and data shows that younger people becoming sick are driving the surge. Cases are up 30% nationwide since the beginning of June.
Abbott did not specify in his statement Thursday when he will resume reopening the state. He said all Texans have a part to play in ensuring the state can reopen for business as soon as possible.
“I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and socially distancing from others,” he said. “The more that we all follow these guidelines, the safer our state will be and the more we can open up Texas for business.”
Abbott’s announcement comes after the largest medical center in Houston warned Wednesday that the city’s hospital capacity could soon become overrun due to young people becoming hospitalized from coronavirus.
“While everyone is susceptible to contracting COVID-19, we are seeing significantly larger number of younger patients being admitted to our hospitals,” the Texas Medical Center said.
“Young people tend to be more active in communal gathering, which can further contribute to the spread of the virus,” TCM added. “To that end, we implore young citizens to take it upon themselves to commit to physically distance as much as possible and to wear masks when socializing with one another.”
ICU bed capacity at TCM stood at 97% of normal levels as of Wednesday afternoon, compared to its normal base occupancy of around 70 to 80 percent. While the system has the ability to increase its capacity for about 1,000 additional beds for public health emergencies, that emergency capacity could be exhausted within the next two weeks, KHOU-11 reported.
Abbott has sounded the alarm over the increasing spread of coronavirus in Texas this week, saying during a Monday press conference that the virus is “spreading at an unacceptable rate.”
The governor said Wednesday that greater economic restrictions could be imposed in the state if necessary to corral the spread of the virus.
“We are looking at greater restrictions and some could be localized,” Abbott said. “There are some regions in the state of Texas that are running tight on hospital capacity that may necessitate a localized strategy to make sure that hospital beds will be available.”
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