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Coronavirus Surge Threatens Texas Reopening

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott is warning that a new and dramatic surge in coronavirus cases could threaten the state’s aggressive reopening plan.

“We are looking at greater restrictions, and some could be localized,” Abbott said Wednesday during an interview with NBCDFW in Dallas.

“There are some regions in the state of Texas that are running tight on hospital capacity that may necessitate a localized strategy to make sure that hospital beds will be available,” he continued.

Texas Reports a Record 5,551 New COVID-19 Cases

Texas began implementing Governor Abbott’s multi-phase reopening plan on May 1st, when retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, museums, and libraries were allowed to open at 25% capacity.  Most other businesses were permitted to resume operations at 50% capacity on June 3rd. Bars and restaurants were able to go to 75% capacity less than two weeks ago, while amusements parks and carnivals were allowed to reopen last Friday.

On Wednesday, Texas reported 5,551 new coronavirus cases and 4,389 additional hospitalizations, a new single-day record for both. The state also reported 429 new deaths and saw the rate of new positive tests jump to 10.4% — the highest since mid-April when the Texas-wide stay-at-home order was still in effect.

Since Memorial Day, hospitalizations in Texas have increased by 190%. Just 1,320 ICU beds remained available in the state as of Wednesday, compared to more than 2,100 in early April.

30,000 Harris County Deaths without Tighter Restrictions

On Wednesday, Dr. Peter Hotez, one of the country’s top experts on infectious disease, called for immediate action to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.

The “crunch time,” he told The Houston Chronicle, is “the next couple of days. We’ve already let this thing go too long. Now the nightmare scenario is unfolding.”

According to Hotez, if authorities don’t act immediately, coronavirus will continue to spread throughout Houston until the Metro Region reaches herd immunity. That won’t happen until at least 60% of the population contracts the virus.

Assuming COVID-19’s fatality rate is around 1%, “you’re looking at nearly 30,000 deaths in Harris County,” Hotez said. “We can’t tolerate that.”

Some Houston Businesses Have Scaled Back Reopening Plans

Despite the potential for catastrophe, the Governor has continued to resist mandatory mask orders for individuals as a means of curbing viral transmission. However, he has allowed local governments to mandate mask requirements for businesses.

While Abbott considers his next move, some Houston employers are already beginning to pull back on reopening.

“It’s really hitting home,” one business owner told the Chronicle. “You really start to get nervous about if you’re putting your employees at risk. Yesterday, when we had another person test positive, I was like, ‘That’s it. I’m done. I’m going to pull back.'”

Meanwhile, the Greater Houston Partnership, which represents 1,110 companies across the Metro Region, urged employers to send workers home when possible.

“We encourage employers to strongly consider returning to a work-from-home model,” CEO Bob Harvey said in a statement. “To keep our Houston economy moving forward, we must all do our part.”

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