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Texas Governor pauses further reopening of economy amid surge in coronavirus cases

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has announced that the state will "pause" any further reopening of its economy for now as the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalisations surged after a record-high number of infections were reported for three straight days.

PTI | Houston | Updated: 26-06-2020 12:22 IST | Created: 26-06-2020 12:22 IST
Texas Governor pauses further reopening of economy amid surge in coronavirus cases

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has announced that the state will "pause" any further reopening of its economy for now as the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalisations surged after a record-high number of infections were reported for three straight days. The state reported a record-high number of 5,996 coronavirus cases on Thursday. It's the third day in a row with a record number of new cases. Texas also saw 47 new fatalities, bringing the cumulative number of deaths related to COVID-19 there to 2,296.

Face masks and social distancing are now mandatory for all businesses in Austin, Houston, Dallas through August 15. Governor Abbott announced on Thursday that he is temporarily pausing additional reopening phases as the state's COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations surge.

Abbott said businesses that were allowed to open under Texas' previous reopening phases can continue to operate under designated occupancy levels. They must maintain the minimum standard health protocols provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Although critics have blamed the reopening for contributing to the expanding pandemic, Abbott has said repeatedly that rolling it back would be a last resort, a stance he repeated on Thursday.

Businesses that have already reopened can continue to operate, but any further reopening is halted, he said in a statement. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” Abbott said.

“This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business," he said. Abbott ordered hospitals in the state's largest metros to stop all elective surgeries in order to save bed capacity for the COVID-19 patients. The order covers facilities in the hard hit Texas counties; Harris, Dallas, Travis, and Bexar.

"These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalised due to COVID-19 and today's action is a precautionary step to help ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat the COVID-19 patients," Abbott said in a statement. To quell fears about intensive care unit (ICU) availability, the Texas Hospital Association (THA) released a statement reporting that hospitals throughout the state are prepared for an influx of COVID-19 patients and can offer “substantial” capacity in the case of a surge.

Hospital officials in other parts of Houston are also reporting that intensive care units — for seriously ill patients, like those on ventilators — are near or over capacity. Local leaders have warned that hospitals could get overwhelmed if the number of infections keeps climbing. Hospital leaders are urging the general public to remain vigilant, practice social distancing and wear masks in public.

Marc Boom, MD, president and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, said that Houston is not yet at a tipping point and that hospitals in the Texas Medical Center are able to care for patients coming in, but that there is concern about the upward trend in cases. “I think what’s happened is, and we’re watching it around our community, people have completely let their guard down,” Boom said.

Healthcare CEOs of the Texas Medical Center said during a Thursday press conference that a letter that was sent out to the community Wednesday regarding the hospital system's "increasingly stretched" ICU capacity level was "misinterpreted," and stressed the pandemic is not eclipsing hospital capabilities to care for COVID-19-positive and other patients. "We have the ability to go far higher than that in terms of the ICU beds we can utilise for COVID-19 patients," Boom said. "...We have PPE (personal protection equipment) , we have the capability, (and) we have learned enormous amounts about caring for people with COVID-19." Dr. Doug Lawson, St. Luke’s Health CEO, said hospitals are actively planning for anticipated increases over the coming months, which includes bringing in contract nurses and clinicians from other parts of the country to help with surges and doubling critical care capacity.

The Public needs to stay home if at all possible, wear face masks, practice social distancing and rigorous personal hygiene to "please help us help Houston," another doctor said. Texas is one of 29 states where case numbers have been rising.

The state has recorded more than 130,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths. More than 4,300 people with the virus are hospitalised across the state, more than double the number at the beginning of June. The US is the hardest-hit country by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 2.47 million official cases and over 126,000 deaths.

The resurgence is concentrated largely in the South and West. This week, several states broke their own daily records, with Arizona, California, Texas and Florida among the hardest-hit..


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