AUSTIN, Texas -- Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday morning that he will pause any further phases of reopening Texas as the state is facing a “massive outbreak” in the coronavirus pandemic, with the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations continuing to hit record highs.
The governor also put new restrictions into place on elective surgeries in four areas — Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio — to protect hospital space for new patients. El Paso was not included in that order.
Abbott's latest action does not reverse any of the reopening phases he's already allowed — meaning that bars, restaurants, malls, bowling alleys and other businesses are still allowed to remain open with some capacity limitations. But the governor's action would appear to slow down any planned expansion of occupancy levels.
“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses, " he said Thursday, but the "pause will help our state corral the spread."
Texas has reported more than 11,000 new cases in the previous two days alone. Texas has also seen its rate of positive tests reach 10.4%, its highest level since mid-April when Texas was still under stay-at-home orders.
Statewide, the number of hospitalizations has reached record highs for a full two weeks, tripling since Memorial Day. Hospitalizations soared to 4,739 on Thursday morning, setting a new record for a 13th consecutive day.
“There is a massive outbreak of Covid-19 across the state of Texas,” Abbott said in an interview.
Abbott this week has taken a newly urgent tone about the worsening trends and is now telling the public they should stay home.
He has also urged Texans to wear face masks in public. The governor hasn’t issued a statewide mask order, but many of the state’s cities and counties — including El Paso — have imposed new orders on businesses to require customers and workers to wear face coverings.
By reimposing a ban on elective surgeries in some areas, Abbott is returning to one of his first actions when the virus first emerged in Texas in March. He later rescinded the order during an aggressive reopening of the state in May that lifted lockdown orders ahead of most of the U.S.
In hard-hit areas of the state currently, some hospitals have begun moving coronavirus patients from crowded ICUs to other facilities and local leaders have warned that hospitals could get overwhelmed if the number of infections keeps climbing.
Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, the largest pediatric hospital in the U.S. said this week that it was admitting adult patients across its campuses to free up more hospital bed space in the Houston area. The number of virus hospital patients in Harris County, which encompasses Houston, has nearly tripled since May 31.