With a steadily declining curve for more than three weeks, Governor Greg Abbott has just partially lifted the restrictions related to Covid and is gradually reopening Texas. It allows many companies to increase their capacity to 75%, making it possible for restaurants, gymnasiums, retailers, museums, libraries, manufacturers, office buildings to return to a level of activity not far from normal. In addition, only 19 regions where hospitalizations due to Covid are less than 15% of total hospitalizations for seven consecutive days will be able to reopen their doors. Three regions are excluded: the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo and Victoria, where hospitals are still treating large numbers of infected patients.
As of September 24, nursing homes, assisted living centers and other long-term care facilities have been allowed to reopen for visits. Hospitals can restart ordinary surgical procedures. All schools once again welcome students according to two models: physical presence or online education. Some school districts have set up digital centers to help underprivileged families who do not have access to the technology needed to participate in online learning at home. Most universities, for their part, preferred to opt for online courses for the first semester. Only a few subjects require a physical presence.
Finally, daycare centers will now be open, but anyone aged 10 or over must wear a mask. Texan officials say daycares must create plans for each child care facility around prevention measures. Places of worship are allowed to operate with protocols in place such as proper spacing between participants, at least two seats between parts. Exceptions include two or more members of the same family who are allowed to sit together. Wedding venues and the services needed to organize weddings may function again, but outdoor venues should be used when possible.
Recreational sports, bowling alleys, skating rinks and amusement parks in counties with less than 1,000 positive cases in total are reopening. This, always respecting the barrier gestures. With the Autumn holidays approaching, the zoo, the aquarium, the water parks and the natural caves are also once again accessible to the public with the application of barrier gestures. Anyone 10 years of age or older must wear a mask. Likewise, for those wishing to go to the Hill Country or to the seaside during these holidays, the parks, beaches and rivers are operational again. It is, however, not necessary to cover the face when the person is in a swimming pool, lake or similar body of water. If you are going to a ranch, be aware that you can attend rodeos and equestrian events. Fans are permitted, as long as the owner’s indoor venues have a spectator limit of no more than 50% of the total occupancy indicated. Outdoor sites are also permitted at 50% capacity. Wearing a mask and a distance of two meters from everyone must be respected.
Outdoor events, such as the Thanksgiving Parade and other large gatherings with an estimated attendance of 10 or more, are possible. However, the county judge or the mayor, as the case may be, in coordination with the local public health authority, must give his approval before it is held. Hairdressing salons, nail bars and beauty institutes (massages, tattoo studios and other body treatments) may also open provided that strict sanitary rules are maintained between workstations and customers. Performance halls can operate indoors with a capacity of 50%. Thus, the Houston Symphony concerts at Jones Hall, will only accommodate 150 guests. There is no occupancy limit for outdoor performances, however, social distancing between groups is required and groups of 10 or more are not permitted. Cinemas can operate at 50% of the capacity of each theater for any screening. Finally, all bars and establishments which receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages, such as nightclubs, are required to remain closed to the public. These companies may, however, remain open for delivery and take-out, including alcoholic beverages. State leaders continue to work on ways to reopen them and remain in discussions with bar associations. After these announcements, major cities like Houston, Dallas or Austin decided to restart limited special events. “The success of the reopening (…) will depend on behaviors: wearing masks, physically distancing, avoiding large crowds – and staying home when you have symptoms, ”Said Silvester Turner, Mayor of Houston.