Gov. Abbott today unveiled a new standard for Covid-19 restrictions in his first major Covid-19 news conference since June. The new standard applies to 19 out of 22 hospital regions in Texas where coronavirus patients make up less than 15% of all hospitalizations.
Businesses that have been open at 50% capacity will be permitted to expand to 75% capacity — including retail stores, restaurants, office buildings, manufacturing, museums and libraries, and gyms. Those openings can begin as early as Monday, September the 21st.
All nursing home facilities, assisted living centers, state-supported living centers, and other long-term care facilities are allowed to reopen for visitation beginning September 24. The Governor stated they must, however, comply with certain health protocols and there must be no COVID outbreak in those facilities.
“All of those facilities [nursing homes] are now allowed to offer essential caregiver visits,” said Gov. Abbott. “To give these facilities the time they need to prepare for the additional visitations to begin, they will be allowed to open up next week, September the 24th.”
The 19 areas include:
San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Waco, Temple/Killeen, Corpus Christi, El Paso, San Angelo, Midland/Odessa, Longview/Tyler, Paris, Abeline, Wichita Falls, Galveston/Beaumont, and Amarillo. Three regions excluded from the loosening of restrictions are the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo and Victoria.
Bars must remain closed reported Gov. Abbott.
“Because bars are nationally recognized as COVID spreading locations, they’re still not able to open it this time,” said Gov. Abbott. “However, it is important for them to know that we are focused on finding ways to get them open. We need to see COVID numbers continue to be contained, and we need to work with the bars on effective strategies that will ensure that when they do open, the possibility of spread of COVID is contained. Some bars and their associations have offered some very helpful ideas and we will continue to work with them on that process.
Bars situated in restaurants may stay operable but with restrictions. There is no standing in the restaurant. Masks must be worn at all times in the restaurant except when seated to dine. Once the patron gets up from the table a mask is required. Gov. Abbott stated that if patrons do not comply with this protocol, the restaurant could potentially lose their license.
Abbott ended his conference with these words, “Without vaccines available, containing COVID is a challenge, but Texans have already shown that they are up to that challenge. The reality is that COVID hasn’t suddenly disappeared in Texas. It’s still here and it’s still a threat. But we are now armed with the personal safety standards and some medical advancements that can ensure that we can continue to tame COVID until more treatments and vaccines become available. So, as we go about the process of continuing to contain COVID, we will also continue to work to open up Texas.”
According to the Texas Department of Health Services, in the last seven days, (9-10-9/16), 3,396 new cases per day, 3,374 current hospitalizations and 112 new fatalities per day. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Atascosa County’s number of confirmed cases are in the high 600s and the death count has gone up to 15. As of September 16 at 5 p.m., Atascosa County has a total of 691 COVID-19 cases. Broken down, that is 52 pending investigation, 571 confirmed and 66 probable with 50 active, 626 recovered and 15 deaths.
On Monday, state health officials announced they were changing the way they calculate the positivity rate, the ratio of cases to tests. There have been many reports that the current reporting system is flawed and has a huge lag time in reporting accurate information.