FORT WORTH, Texas — Texas is allowing most of the state’s businesses, including restaurants, retail stores, gyms and office buildings currently open at 50% capacity to open to 75% capacity beginning Monday.
Three regions excluded from this 75% capacity measure are the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, and Victoria, according to Gov. Greg Abbott.
In those excluded regions, defined by Trauma Service Areas, COVID-19 hospitalizations remain higher than 15% of total hospitalizations.
The 19 regions of the state allowed to open to 75%, including Fort Worth and Dallas, can also immediately resume elective medical procedures, and nursing homes and other types of assisted living centers that don’t have coronavirus outbreaks will be allowed to reopen for visitation under certain guidelines next week.
Bars will remain closed, Abbott said at a news conference Thursday afternoon in Austin. “Because bars are nationally recognized as COVID-spreading locations, they are still not able to open at this time,” the governor said.
Abbott said officials are looking to find ways to let bars reopen safely.
All nursing home facilities, assisted living centers, and long-term care facilities are allowed to reopen for visitation. They must, however, comply with certain health protocols and there must be no COVID outbreak in the facilities, Abbott said. The facilities are allowed to resume visitation Sept. 24.
Under the new rules, residents of nursing home and care facilities can designate up to two essential family caregivers who will be provided necessary training to allow them to safely go inside a facility for a scheduled visit, including in the resident’s room, to help ensure their loved one’s physical, social and emotional needs are being met. Designated caregivers will not be required to maintain physical distancing, but only one caregiver can visit a resident at a time. Safety standards for visitations at nursing homes must be finalized by the end of the month
Abbott said the latest reopening measures are possible because Texans have shown they will adhere to pandemic safety guidelines such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing.
“All the metrics show that Texas is moving in the right direction,” he said. “The number of active cases in Texas has been cut in half since July. The fact is COVID still exists and most Texans are still susceptible. But we are now armed with the personal safety standards and some medical advancements that can ensure we can continue to contain COVID until more treatments and vaccines become available.”
Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner of Grand Prairie released a statement critical of Abbott’s news conference.
“Gov. Abbott’s press conference today was notable for what he didn’t say. There was no mention of a contact tracing program, no mention of improving the state’s unreliable data and no mention of expanding Medicaid to increase access to health care for the millions of Texans who are uninsured,” Turner said.
Texas has lost 15% of the 50,000 restaurants in the state at the start of the year, according to Emily Williams Knight, the Texas Restaurant Association’s chief executive officer. More than 100,000 restaurants have closed across the country.
Restaurants are now allowed to re-use sanitized menus and condiments instead of disposable options.
“With the medical advancements we have made and the personal hygiene practices we have adopted, Texans have shown that we can address both the health and safety concerns of COVID-19 while also taking careful, measured steps to restore the livelihoods that Texans depend on,” Abbott said. “Achieving both goals requires safe standards that contain COVID-19, emphasize protecting the most vulnerable, and establish clear metrics that the public can depend on.”
©2020 Fort Worth Star-Telegram