By Ashley Moss
During an update from the Texas Capitol in Austin on September 17, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that most regions in Texas can loosen their current coronavirus restrictions, meaning many businesses and services can increase their capacity to 75 percent from 50 percent. Several Executive Orders were issued, expanding occupancy levels for restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, gyms and exercise facilities and classes, museums, and libraries.
As part of the criteria for the expanded reopening, COVID-19 patients must make up less than 15 percent of all hospitalizations for at least seven days in their hospital region.
Abbott also announced new guidelines related to nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state. Those facilities can reopen for visits beginning September 24 for essential caregiver visits as long as there are no cases of the virus present at the facility.
Under the reopening measures hospitals can also immediately return to elective procedures. Three hospital regions are excluded from the new reopening stage, including the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo and Victoria. Abbott said those regions’ hospitalizations are still “in the danger zone.”
“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,” said Gov. Abbott. “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.”
With the news of the reopening, Gov. Abbott also cautioned Texans to continue practicing safe methods to slow the spread of COVID-19 cases across the state.
“Texans must continue to heed the guidance of medical experts by wearing a mask, social distancing, and practicing proper sanitation strategies,” said Gov. Abbott. “By maintaining health and safety standards that are proven to mitigate COVID-19, we can continue to slow the spread while opening up the Texas economy.”
This news on the reopening comes as the latest COVID-19 numbers were also released. As of Thursday, new data from the Texas Department of Health recorded more than 674,000 cases of Coronavirus, including 69,000 active cases. More than 14,000 deaths have been recorded in addition to almost 600,000 recoveries.
“The most important takeaway today is that the precautions we have been taking to slow the spread of COVID-19 have been working,” said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, adding that the virus is still “spreading in our community, and people’s lives remain at risk.”
He continued, “We must continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, and use good hygiene. If we don’t stay on guard, especially as schools reopen and flu season begins, we will cause great harm to our residents’ health and to the economy.”
In response to the ongoing pandemic, Gov. Abbott has also appointed 11 members to a Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response. The task force provides expert, evidence-based assessments, protocols, and recommendations related to state responses to infectious diseases, and to serve as a reliable and transparent source of information and education for Texas leadership and citizens.
The group is composed of a variety of community and health leaders, including Sheila Haley, Ph.D., from Lantana, who recently retired as an assistant clinical professor for the College of Nursing at Texas Woman’s University. Haley received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Chicago State University, Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Phoenix, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing from Hampton University.
The Executive Order related to the expanded capacity of certain services can be viewed here.