Governor Greg Abbott has announced that the state of Texas will pause any further reopening of its economy for now, a day after he said the state is facing a massive coronavirus outbreak. On Tuesday, Abbott issued an Executive Order (GA-3) that lifts the mask mandate in Texas and increases the capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent. This move, with its 29 million residents, goes beyond similar actions in other states and cities that are quick to reduce as many limits as they can. Along with GA-26, the Texas Department of State Health Services released an updated set of minimum standard health protocols for businesses.
This includes health care, special advisory council, economic revitalization, and education. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, Speaker of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement that Texas is almost the last in the nation in per capita testing and Governor Abbott's press conference on Monday marked his second announcement regarding the restart of the Texas economy amid the pandemic. Abbott said Texas is already in the second phase of its contact tracing plan, adding 1,000 trackers to the existing 1,100 and launching a statewide app and call center to improve the process. In San Antonio, fan availability fell below 70% for the first time Wednesday, Texas Public Radio reported.
Although conditions in the state and nation have improved due to a large increase during the holidays, the coronavirus is still spreading rapidly in Texas. Even so, the total number of tests conducted as of Monday 290,517 was still approximately 1% of Texas' nearly 29 million inhabitants. The lifting of mask mandates and increasing capacity to 100 percent is a major step forward for Texas as it continues to battle against COVID-19. With advanced treatments now available to people with Covid-19 and 5.7 million vaccines already given to Texans, state mandates are no longer necessary. The Texas Medical Center in Houston reported that 97% of its ICU beds were occupied and that 27% of those patients were people who had tested positive for the coronavirus. As Texans look forward to getting out after a year of isolation in the pandemic, it is important to remember that safety protocols should still be followed. This includes wearing masks when social distancing is not possible and washing hands regularly.
With these precautions in place, Texans can enjoy their newfound freedom while still keeping themselves and their communities safe.