As COVID Cases Climb, Abbott Announces New Openings

A visual representation of the numbers of cases by area within Texas. Harris County and Dallas County lead the state in cases and deaths. (Photo via the Texas Tribune.)

By Terrance Turner

May 18, 2020

On Saturday, Texas reported a record-high 1,801 cases of COVID-19. That’s the highest one-day jump since the pandemic started. The Department of State Health Services says that the totals were “largely from targeting testing” at meat plants. CBS News says that 700 of those cases sprung from a meatpacking plant in Amarillo, TX. On May 16, Gov. Abbott released a statement saying that he’d deployed a “surge response team” to Amarillo to conduct site surveys and test employees.

Another 33 deaths were reported on Saturday, according to the Houston Chronicle. That brings the three-day total to 147 — the most in a three-day period during this pandemic. Another 31 deaths were reported Sunday. But yesterday, the number of daily cases plunged from 1,801 to 785. Today, there were 909 new cases, according to the Texas Tribune.

Today, Gov. Abbott emphasized the positive during the press conference. He stressed that the hospitalization rate is lower than at any point since April 21. (Truthfully, hospitalizations have hovered between 1,500 and 1,700 for most of the past month.) Abbott also touted the “positivity rate”, which measures how many people who have been tested for the virus actually have it. Abbott displayed a chart during the press conference that presented a 7-day “rolling average” of positivity rates. The positivity rate in Texas fell from 13.86% on April 13 to 4.97% on May 13.

Graphic displayed during Gov. Abbott’s press conference yesterday.

Abbott used these encouraging statistics to bolster his argument in favor of reopening further. “Texas is prepared to move into Phase II,” Gov. Abbott said during today’s press conference. Effective today, gyms and businesses in office buildings can reopen at 25% capacity. Those who work at those jobs may be able to find child care more easily after today. “Starting immediately, child care services are able to open,” Abbott said.

Beginning Friday, May 22, restaurants may reopen at 50% capacity. Bars, breweries, and wine tasting rooms can reopen at 25% capacity on Friday. Also allowed to reopen: bowling alleys, bingo halls, aquariums, and Abbott added that on May 31, youth sports camps and Little League games may re-open. Pro sports may also resume, given certain standards and conditions.

UPDATE: May 19, 2020: Bars reopen on May 22, but you may not want to go just yet. A number of safety standareds have been instituted that may put a damper on your night out. “Customers should not be permitted to loiter at the bar or in commonly trafficked areas, and should remain seated at tables inside the bar,” the “Minimum Health Protocols” sheet on the Governor’s website says. “Only provide service to seated individuals.” No table can seat more than six people.

“Parties should maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other parties at all times, including while
waiting to be seated in the establishment or for admission to the establishment,” the article continues. “Activities that enable close human contact, including but not limited to dancing, are discouraged.” For bar patrons, there are additional rules:

“When individuals go to a bar or similar establishment, individuals should, to the extent
possible, minimize in-person contact with others not in the individual’s household. Minimizing
in-person contact includes maintaining 6 feet of separation from individuals. When
maintaining 6 feet of separation is not feasible, other methods should be utilized to slow the
spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a face covering or mask, washing or sanitizing hand
frequently, and avoiding sharing utensils or other common objects.”

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