Gov. Greg Abbott pauses Texas’ reopening

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Abbott’s latest action does nothing to reverse any of the reopening phases he’s already allowed for — meaning that bars, restaurants, malls, bowling alleys and other businesses are still allowed to remain open with some capacity limitations. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” he wrote in a press release on Thursday, but the “pause will help our state corral the spread.”

The latest ban on elective procedures only applies to Dallas, Harris, Bexar and Travis counties, four areas where the number of patients hospitalized with virus is quickly progressing.

Statewide, the number of hospitalizations has reached record highs for a full two weeks, soaring to 4,739 on Thursday morning and tripling since Memorial Day. On Wednesday, there were 1,320 intensive care unit beds and nearly 13,000 available hospital beds, but with regional disparities.

In hard-hit regions, some hospitals have begun moving coronavirus patients from crowded ICUs to other facilities and local leaders have warned that hospitals could get overwhelmed if the number of infections keeps climbing.

Some counties could be added to the list if hospitalizations surge in other areas of Texas.

In Denton County, 54.7 percent of ICU beds were occupied as of Wednesday.  Hospital occupancy was at 58.8 percent, with 40 COVID-19 patients out of 588 patients currently hospitalized. See the numbers here.

As hospitalizations have jumped in recent weeks, Abbott had suggested one of the first major moves the state could make is to at least partially restore the elective surgeries ban that Texas put in place in late March.

That statewide ban lasted about a month before Abbott eased it, allowing hospitals to resume non-essential procedures under certain conditions, as long as 15% of beds were reserved for coronavirus patients.

Meanwhile, all employees and visitors to Tarrant County businesses will be required to wear face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This requirement begins at 6 p.m. Friday and will run through 6 a.m. Aug. 3.  Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said the executive order requiring masks in public places is necessary because Tarrant County has seen a 52% increase in new COVID-19 cases, a 67% increase in hospitalizations and a 14% increase in deaths over the past two weeks.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/06/25/texas-elective-surgeries-coronavirus-greg-abbott/.

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