Texas pauses reopening and elective surgeries as Covid cases spike
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Thursday the state will pause its efforts to reopen the economy as the number of confirmed coronavirus infections spikes and hospitals begin to fill.Whether the increase is tied to the mass gatherings for the Floyd protests and funeral is not stated, but some of the largest gatherings were in the Houston, Harris County area, It is an area where the wearing of masks has been mandatory for some time, which could indicate that they are not effective at stopping the spread. Earlier reports indicated that two Houston Texan football players had tested postive for the virus and at least one of them went to the Floyd funeral.
Abbott has been warning of a mounting catastrophe for days, as new cases rise precipitously in Houston, the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and in cities like Austin, San Antonio and El Paso.
Abbott said businesses that are already allowed to operate under the current reopening phase will continue to be able to do so.
"As we experience an increase in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families," Abbott said in a statement. "The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business."
Experts have watched with growing alarm as the number of confirmed cases in Texas rise past 125,000. The state is dealing with an estimated 50,000 active cases, one of the highest numbers in the nation.
Texas has added more than 5,000 new cases on each of the last two days, and the number of overall cases has doubled since the end of May.
In Houston, hospitals are rapidly filling with new COVID-19 patients. Several major medical centers are already shipping patients to other facilities to create more space in intensive care units; Lyndon Baines Johnson Hospital said its ICU was over capacity, and the massive Texas Medical Center is operating at 97 percent capacity, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo (D) told reporters Wednesday.
Abbott ordered a halt to elective surgeries in Texas hospitals on Wednesday, a move intended to free up bed space.
On Thursday, he urged Texans to wear a mask in public, though he did not issue an order requiring masks as governors in some other states have done.