Texas Governor Greg Abbott Pauses to Reopen as COVID Cases Increase

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Thursday that he will pause the state’s reopening plan as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

Companies that have already reopened can continue to operate with limited occupancy, he said.

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go back and close business,” Abbott said in a statement. “This temporary pause will help our state corner the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”

Texas was one of the first states to start reopening due to coronavirus blockades in early May, allowing many companies to reopen at reduced capacity. Since then, the state has seen an increase in cases.

It was not immediately clear which companies would be affected by the hiatus, but Abbott ordered hospitals in some affected counties to postpone elective procedures again to make room for COVID-19 patients.

On Tuesday alone, 5,489 new cases were reported in the state. Abbott described it as a “massive outbreak,” and Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease expert in Houston who is working on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, said it was “absolutely horrible.”

The number of people hospitalized in ICUs is so high that some facilities have been forced to move patients elsewhere, the Texas Tribune reported Thursday.

In the past two weeks, coronavirus hospitalizations in Texas have repeatedly reached record highs. As of Thursday morning, 4,739 people were hospitalized, according to The Tribune.

Earlier this month, Abbott blamed the outbreak on the youth and punished those who scoffed at the patterns of social estrangement and refused to wear a mask.

Over the weekend, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said it had suspended the licenses of a dozen bars that failed to comply with restrictions designed to slow the spread of the infection, KSAT reported.

On Thursday, Abbott once again urged residents to “do their part” to curb the spread by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly and distancing themselves socially.

However, unlike other governors, Abbott has not issued an order forcing people to wear masks in public.

As of Thursday, more than 131,000 people in Texas had been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to The New York Times.

Texas is not alone in the increase in coronavirus cases. Florida, which was also among the states that reopened early, has also seen an increase. In recent weeks, state hospitals have reported that their ICUs are at capacity with COVID-19 patients.

On the other side of the country, California, the first state to implement a stay-at-home order, has also reported record levels in new coronavirus cases. Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that California had completed more than 1 million tests in the past two weeks. He added that the positivity rate was 5.1%, compared to 4.6% the previous week.