Governor Abbott announces reduced restrictions on many activities

On Thursday afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference in Austin to announce the latest statistics on the battle against COVID and the relaxation of some of the requirements for businesses and long term care facilities. “The number of new cases have been cut in half and number of hospitalizations have been cut by more than two-thirds”, Abbott said in a press conference. He said that the number of new cases and deaths have “steady and significantly declined” since late July. The Governor was excited to announce that the percentage of people diagnosed with Covid-19 that have recovered from COVID, “skyrocketed”.

He reiterated that the doctors have told him the reason for the decline in new cases and hospitalizations was due to “Texans taking COVID seriously and following CDC guidelines on social distancing, washing their hands frequently and facemasks”. But the doctors also stressed that until additional treatments for COVID and a working vaccine are available Texans need to continue to be vigilant. The Governor also said that we must also continue to shield our seniors and vulnerable people.

Abbott also said over a million of the new, 15 minute COVID test kits are on their way to Texas and that will play a role in keeping the number of new cases low.

The metric that Governor and doctors are now using to determine where we are in the battle against COVID has become the number of people hospitalized. “Hospitalizations is the most important information about the severity of COVID in any particular region”.

Using that metric, health officials believe that we can safely loosen some of the restrictions in counties that have shown they have reduced the spread of the disease. Abbott said that 19 of the 22 hospital regions in Texas have achieved a reduction in the rate of spread that justifies reducing some of the restrictions. However, three hospital regions, Laredo, Rio Grande Valley, and Victoria still have not been able to reduce the spread enough and therefore are not included in the areas where the restrictions will be reduced. The Governor said, “Hospitalization rates must be at less than 15% for seven straight days” for the hospital regions to join in the new, reduced restrictions.

Here is a list of the new restrictions:

Starting September 21st

– Every business establishment in Texas can operate up to 50% of the total listed occupancy of the establishment.

– Amusement parks shall operate at no more than 50% of normal operating limits as determined by the owner.

– Restaurants that were only allowed 50% occupancy inside can expand to 75% inside occupancy.

– Retail stores can expand to 75% occupancy.

– All office buildings can expand to 75% occupancy.

– Manufacturing facilities can expand to 75% occupancy.

– Museums and libraries can expand to 75% occupancy.

– Gyms and exercise classes could expand to 75% occupancy.

There are no occupancy limits on:

– Religious services, including those conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship.

– County and municipal government operations.

– Child-care services.

– Youth Camps including all summer camps and other daytime and overnight camps for youths.

– Recreational sports programs for youths and adults.

– Any public or private schools, and any public or private institutions of higher education, not already covered in the above list.

– Drive-in concerts, movies, or similar events, under guidelines that facilitate appropriate social distancing, that generally require the spectator to remain in their vehicles, and that minimize in-person contact between people who are not in the same household or vehicle.

There are no occupancy limits for the following establishments that operate with at least six feet of social distancing between work stations:

–  Cosmetology salons, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons/shops, and other establishments where licensed cosmetologists or barbers practice their trade.

– Massage establishments and other facilities where licensed massage therapists or other persons licensed or otherwise authorized to practice under Chapter 455 of the Texas Occupations Code practice their trade

– Other personal-care and beauty services such as tanning salons, tattoo studios, piercing studios, hair removal services, and hair loss treatment, and growth services.

– Public schools may operate as provided by, and under the minimum standard health protocols founding, guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency(TEA). Private schools and institutions of higher education are encouraged to establish similar standards.

– People may visit nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities as determined through guidance from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission(HHSC). Nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities should follow infection control policies and practices set forth by HHSC, including minimizing the movement of staff between facilities whenever possible.

At this time people are still not allowed to:

– use commercial rafting or tubing services, including rental of rafts or tubes and transportation of people for the purpose of rafting or tubing.

– Visit bars or similar establishments that hold a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission(TABC) and are not restaurants, and have more than 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages. However, the use by such bars or similar establishments of drive-thru, pick up, or delivery options for food and drinks is allowed to the extent authorized by TABC.

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