In latest reopening phase, Abbott lets almost all businesses open at 50% capacity

By Patrick Svitek, Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday announced his third phase of reopening Texas during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing virtually all businesses to operate at 50% capacity.

That is effectively immediately, and there are “very limited exceptions,” Abbott’s office said.

On June 12, Abbott is letting restaurants ramp up their capacity to 75%.

“The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe,” Abbott said in a statement.

While the number of cases continue to rise in Texas, Abbott emphasized that the new cases are “largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants.” Those places made up more than 45% of the new cases over about the last week, according to his office.

Texas has now had 68,271 coronavirus cases, including 1,734 deaths, according to the latest data Wednesday from the Department State Health Services. Over 90% of the state’s 254 counties have reported cases.

As of Tuesday, there had been 1,006,768 tests conducted in Texas, the DSHS figures show. While testing has gone up, it is still regularly falling short of the 30,000 tests per day that Abbott had set for reopening the state.

Abbott has also focused on the positivity rate, or the ratio of confirmed cases to total tests. That figure, presented by the state as a seven-day rolling average, has dropped from a high of 13.86% in mid-April to between 4% and 6% for most of May. In recent days, however, the figure has been on an upward trend, hitting 6.62% on Tuesday.

Abbott has said in recent weeks that Texans should anticipate temporary increases in the positivity rate as the state dispatches its surge response teams to the three kinds of hotspots: prisons and jails, nursing homes and meatpacking plants.