More businesses and venues in most regions of Texas will be able to loosen COVID-19-spurred restrictions as early as Sept. 21, but traditional bars will remain closed, according to Gov. Greg Abbott.
During a Sept. 17 press conference, Abbott cited encouraging numbers about the daily rate of new positive coronavirus cases, related deaths and hospitalizations as reason to let retail stores, restaurants and office buildings expand their capacity from 50% to 75%.
Also, nursing homes may accommodate visitations with restrictions, and hospitals will be able to provide elective procedures. Additionally, manufacturing facilities, libraries, museums and gyms are allowed to increase their capacity limits.
“Doctors have explained the reason for these improvements (numbers) is because Texans are taking COVID seriously,” Abbott said. “People are following (Centers for Disease Control) standards — social distancing, sanitizing their hands and wearing masks around others.”
But this expansion of reopenings is allowed to happen only in 19 defined hospital regions statewide. Three other regions – Laredo, Victoria and the Rio Grande Valley – will stay under current public restrictions until the rate of hospitalizations in those areas decreases.
Statewide, 3,249 people were reported to be currently hospitalized, according to data released by the state on Sept. 16. Hospitalizations around the state totaled more than 10,000 in July.
Additionally, the seven-day average of daily new cases is 3,415, marking a drop from numbers in July, but that current average is still higher than similar averages recorded in the spring.
Abbott said “personal vigilance is the best way to keep down the number of COVID cases,” he added.
Bars, however, will not be able to reopen their doors anywhere in Texas, not anytime soon. Although Abbott called bars “nationally recognized as COVID-spreading locations,” he said he and other state officials are exploring how best to let bars reopen in a safe manner.
Abbott acknowledged that different types of business owners around Texas have clamored for a wider phase of reopenings.
“If we fully reopen Texas, without limits, without safe practices, it could lead to an unsustainable increase of COVID that would require the possibility of being forced to ratchet back down,” Abbott added.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said later on that success of the latest round of reopenings hinges on people continuing to practice safe behavior.
“I think if we can do that, we can get our infection rate under control,” Nirenberg said. “We’ll be reminding those folks to maintain those practices. Make sure you continue to wear your mask because that’s still an enforced part of our orders.”
Nirenberg said San Antonio Metro Health District will keep an eye out for any spikes in new cases resulting from Labor Day holiday weekend activities.