Despite more positive cases of the coronavirus being reported in the state, Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that Texas is ready to take the next step to get business moving by among other things, re-opening massage establishments, bars and bowling alleys.
Beginning today, child care facilities, massage and personal-care centers, businesses in office buildings and youth clubs can reopen. As of Friday, bars can start serving customers as long as they keep to the rules about 25 per cent of capacity and social distancing. Also on the list for May 22: rodeo and equestrian events; bowling alleys, bingo halls, simulcast racing and skating rinks; and aquariums and natural caverns.
The governor still has not OKed the opening of theme parks, however, saying they are still studying the issue of how to keep that many people safe while in attendance.
As of Friday, restaurants can expand to 50 percent of capacity in the Phase 2 operation.
Beginning immediately, businesses located in office buildings can reopen as long as no more than ten people or 25 percent of their regular work force (whichever is greater) are present at one time and social distancing is performed.
Zoos can reopen on May 29 and on May 31, day and overnight youth camps, youth sports and certain professions sports can resume. There will be social distancing among parents at youth sports events and no spectators at the professional sports which include golf, baseball, football, tennis and basketball.
Public schools can reopen for summer school as of June 1 as long as there is social distancing and other health practices are followed. For a full list of guidelines, openings, and relevant dates, visit gov.texas.gov/opentexas.
Abbott said the reason the number of positive cases is increasing is due to increased testing. But he said what is important is the rate generated by comparing the number of cases to the number of COVID-19 tests. The rate, he said, has decreased dramatically and is now down to less than 5 percent. He also said there is plenty of room in hospitals to handle the number of cases coming in.
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He made two exceptions to his timetable — the Amarillo area and around El Paso — which have seen spikes in the number of coronavirus cases. He said the state has sent surge teams to those areas to help them better contain outbreaks there and has delayed their Phase 2 implementations for a week after the rest of the state.
At a following press conference, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner reported one more COVID-19 death bringing the total in the city to 115 and an additional 139 new reported cases bringing the number of positive coronavirus cases in the city of Houston to 5.795.
Turner did take issue somewhat with the way the governor is interpreting the statistics, saying it is an apples and oranges comparison. "In March and April we were just testing people who were symptomatic," he said. "Then we started testing everyone." As a result, of course, more people tested negative and the ratio decreased. To be a truly valid analysis, the comparison should only contain the data of the people who were symptomatic when they came in, he said.
One area the mayor and the governor were in complete agreement on, however, was the need for people to continue to practice preventative measures such as social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing masks.