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Texas to remain ‘wide open for business’ despite dramatic Covid-19 rise

Governor Greg Abbott urges Texans to wear masks and continue social distancing to slow rise in hospitalizations and infections

AUSTIN, Texas — On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the third phase of reopening businesses in Texas amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the governor’s plan, most Texas businesses will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, effective immediately. That includes businesses currently operating at 25% capacity, such as bars, gyms and indoor wedding venues. Video game facilities can also open at 50% capacity.

Most outdoor areas are not subject to capacity limits, the governor said.

“The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe,” said Abbott. “As anticipated, the new positive cases that we are seeing are largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails and meatpacking plants. Thanks to the effectiveness of our Surge Response Teams, we have the ability to contain those hot spots while opening up Texas for business.”

Abbott said as the state begins Phase III, all Texans and Texas businesses are asked to continue following the standard health protocols and guidance of state and federal officials monitoring COVID-19.

“If we remain vigilant, we will continue to mitigate the spread of this virus, protect public health and get more Texans back to work and their daily activities,” he said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said the state will remain “wide open for business” despite seeing a dramatic 10-day rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations and infections.

An average of 3,200 Texans per day are now being admitted to hospitals, Abbott said, double the rate in mid-May. Abbott called on Texans to wear masks and continue social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus but stopped short of making masks mandatory, and made no call for businesses to restrict services.

One expert described such voluntarily guidelines as a “hodge-podge” of public health measures.

“To state the obvious, Covid-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled,” said Abbott, a Republican. However, he said reimposing stay-at-home orders was a “last resort”, and that Texas will remain “wide open for business”.

Abbott added: “We have several strategies to reduce the spread without having to shut Texas back down.” He acknowledged some Texans view wearing masks as, “an infringement of freedom”, but said not following guidelines will “ultimately lead to the closure of more businesses”. At the end of a press conference, Abbott donned his own face mask, adorned with stars and stripes.

More than half of American states are experiencing increased Covid-19 infections, with Texas among a handful seeing especially dramatic spikes. More than 120,000 people in the US have died from Covid-19, more than any country in the world.

In Texas, more than 111,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 2,100 people have died, according to the Texas Tribune, which gathers data from the state health department. Texas’s most populous cities, including Austin, Dallas and Houston, have seen the largest outbreaks.

“We’re already fighting this virus with one hand behind our back,” said vaccine researcher Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Our only choice is to maximize the use of the few tools we have.” That should include mandatory masks, and if trends continue, reimposing social distancing measures.

“The idea we’re still fighting wearing masks at this point, when people are filing into [intensive care units], is just ridiculous,” he said.

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