Texas Business Restrictions Could Start to Be Lifted in ‘A Few Weeks or So’
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said today that he expects to issue an executive order to relax public health restrictions on businesses once the outbreak of COVID-19 has been better contained, a move that could happen within weeks.
“This is not going to be a rush the gates, suddenly everybody is able to open up at once,” the governor said on a webcast of a press conference and conference call with small business owners. Re-openings instead would be a “slow process,” Abbott noted.
The governor stressed that the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program would provide companies “the resources they need to keep employees on the payroll for the remaining few weeks or so until businesses can open back up.”
Later this week, the governor’s office plans to roll out an economic task force focused on the economy and easing of public health restrictions. The team “will very comprehensively, strategically evaluate what must be done to open Texas back up, ensuring that what we are doing is consistent with data, with medical analysis, as well as strategies about which type of businesses will open up,” Abbott said.
Abbott’s remarks echo those of White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said Sunday on CNN that parts of the U.S. economy could have a “rolling reentry” as early as next month.
The Texas governor referred to a phone call that he held this morning with Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, saying that Pence and Birx also spoke about a strategy along those lines.
Such a gradual re-opening which would depend in part on surveillance testing to understand what level of risk there was of recurring outbreaks. “They were talking about the amount of testing supplies and testing strategies that will be able to be used,” Abbott said.
The governor suggested that some Texas businesses would be able to reopen before others, either because of their geography or the nature of the business. “Because our ability to open businesses in the state of Texas will be tied to our ability to contain COVID-19, only those that will have zero impact on the spread of COVID-19 will be allowed to open back up (at first).”
Harder-hit cities might be allowed to maintain tighter restrictions than other areas: “Even within the state of Texas there are certain areas that are harder hit by the coronavirus than others.”
The governor cautioned, however, “I cannot emphasize enough our primary goal in the state of Texas right now is doing everything we can to contain the spread of the coronavirus.”
‘Glimmers of Hope’
The latest coronavirus case data out today from the Department of State Health Services paints a mixed picture on the success of lockdown measures to contain the spread of the virus. On the one hand, there are still hundreds of new confirmed cases daily. On the other hand, the rate of growth seems to be slowing, with still plenty of hospital capacity at the moment.
As of midday Monday, April 13, more than 133,000 Texans who have been tested for COVID-19, of whom 13,906 tested positive and 287 died.
That’s up from 13,484 confirmed cases on Sunday, which Abbott pointed out was the “second lowest number that tested positive since late march.” However, Sundays have typically recorded fewer positive tests than other days of the week, perhaps because fewer people get tested on that day of the week, or because fewer tests are reported to the state health department.
Abbott said the numbers were “good news” and reflected “glimmers of hope with a whole bunch of red flags attached to those red flags.”
“Our hospitalizations are declining. The same is true with regard to deaths. …he number of deaths reported yesterday was a three-day low in the number of deaths. Similarly, if you look at the growth trend line of cumulative cases that have been reported in the state of Texas, over the past three days the cumulative case trend line has declined.”
The Department of State Health Services says that 1,176 coronavirus patients are currently hospitalized, but there are still over 20,000 available hospital beds and 6,731 available ventilators in the state.
Despite signs that the epidemic curve in Texas is beginning to flatten, Abbott said, “I highly caution you, it’s too early to decisively make that call.”
Originally published at https://www.honestaustin.com on April 13, 2020.