AUSTIN, Texas -- Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday afternoon announced his third phase of reopening Texas during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing virtually all businesses to operate at 50% capacity.
That is effective immediately, and there are "very limited exceptions," Abbott's office said.
Restaurants were already permitted to be open at 50% capacity. Abbott is allowing them to immediately increase their table size from six people to 10, and on June 12, they can ramp up their capacity to 75%.
"The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing Covid-19 and keeping our state safe," Abbott said in a statement.
While the number of cases continues to rise in Texas, Abbott emphasized that the new cases are "largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants." Those places made up more than 45% of the new cases over about the last week, according to his office.
There is fine print to Abbott's latest announcement. Amusement parks and carnivals are among the business that are allowed to immediately operate at 50% capacity — though only if they are in counties with fewer than 1,000 cases. Amusements parks and carnivals in counties with over 1,000 cases can scale up to 50% capacity on June 19.
And bars, which were previously capped at 25% capacity, can immediately go up to 50% as long as customers remained seated.
Texas has now had 68,271 coronavirus cases, including 1,734 deaths, according to the latest data Wednesday from the Department State Health Services. Over 90% of the state's 254 counties have reported cases.
There have been 1,006,768 tests conducted in Texas, the DSHS figures show. While testing has gone up, it is still regularly falling short of the 30,000 tests per day that Abbott had set for reopening the state.
Abbott has also focused on the positivity rate, or the ratio of confirmed cases to total tests. That figure, presented by the state as a seven-day rolling average, has dropped from a high of 13.86% in mid-April to between 4% and 6% for most of May. In recent days, however, the figure has been on an upward trend, hitting 6.62% on Tuesday.
Abbott has said in recent weeks that Texans should anticipate temporary increases in the positivity rate as the state dispatches its surge response teams to the three kinds of hotspots: prisons and jails, nursing homes and meatpacking plants.