Abbott Eases Restrictions, But Masks Remain the Rule

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday further easing of restrictions on businesses, the reauthorization of elective surgeries in the majority of the state, and new guidelines regarding visitations at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Bars, however, must remain closed.

Under Abbott’s new metric, restaurants, retail stores, museums, libraries, museums, gyms, office buildings, manufacturing facilities can increase capacity to 75% beginning Sept. 21 in Trauma Service Areas (TSA) that have had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of all hospitalized patients is 15% or less. A current list of areas with high hospitalizations will be maintained at www.dshs.texas.gov/ga3031. In Dallas-Fort Worth, the percentage of hospital patients with COVID-19 is 6.3%, down from an earlier peak of 17%. 

Using this metric, 19 of the 22 TSAs in Texas qualify to increase occupancy levels to 75% and resume elective surgeries.

Three of the 22 TSAs (S-Victoria, T-Laredo, and V-Lower Rio Grande Valley) must remain at 50% occupancy and continue postponing elective surgeries until the hospitalization metric requirements are met. These three TSAs contain the following counties: Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca, Victoria, Jim Hogg, Webb, Zapata, Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy.

“With the medical advancements we have made and the personal hygiene practices we have adopted, Texans have shown that we can address both the health and safety concerns of COVID-19 while also taking careful, measured steps to restore the livelihoods that Texans depend on,” said Abbott. “Achieving both goals requires safe standards that contain COVID-19, emphasize protecting the most vulnerable, and establish clear metrics that the public can depend on. That is why today we have announced expanded occupancy standards for a variety of services. But, Texans should remember that a steady and significant decline in COVID-19 cases is not a sign to let up in our vigilance against the virus.

“Instead, Texans must continue to heed the guidance of medical experts by wearing a mask, social distancing, and practicing proper sanitation strategies,” he continued. “By maintaining health and safety standards that are proven to mitigate COVID-19, we can continue to slow the spread while opening up the Texas economy.” 

The new visitation guidance for eligible nursing homes, assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities, home and community-based service providers, and inpatient hospice is effective Sept. 24. 

Under the new rules, residents will be allowed to designate up to two essential family caregivers who will be provided necessary training to allow them to safely go inside a facility for a scheduled visit, including in the resident’s room, to help ensure their loved one’s physical, social, and emotional needs are being met. Designated caregivers will not be required to maintain physical distancing, but only one caregiver can visit a resident at a time.

Abbott’s mask mandate remains in effect, as does his ban on outdoor gatherings in excess of 10 people, unless approved by a mayor or county judge.

“The reality is that COVID hasn’t suddenly disappeared in Texas. It’s still here, and it’s still a threat,” Abbott said. 

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *