May 5, 2020
Governor Gives Hair and Nail Shops Go Ahead
Amid Boost in Coronavirus Testing in the State
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
|COVID-19 MAJOR STATES
Test Rates & Death Projections Per 100,000 Population
Ranked on Testing Rates in the 15 Largest States
Governor Greg Abbott bowed to mounting pressure from conservatives on Tuesday when he gave permission to Texans to start getting their hair cut and nails done again at barber shops and salons that can open again three days from now.
Abbott announced at a Texas Capitol briefing that gyms would be able to get back in business on May 18 after being shuttered for more than a month as a temporary casualty of the coronavirus crisis. But the fitness centers across the state will be forced to comply with rigid restrictions including a 25 percent cap on occupancy with showers, saunas and steam rooms off limits under an executive order that he modified today.
The Republican governor said he would allow businesses in office buildings to reopen on May 18 with no more than one-fourth of the company's workforce on the premises at any given time unless five or fewer employees work there. Manufacturers that hadn't been designated as essential will be able to reopen in two weeks as well with social distancing requirements that all businesses have been ordered to endorce as a condition of the restart.
But Abbott said that bars would have to wait until a date that remains indefinite before they will get the green light to start serving drinks again.
Abbott said that he'd expanded the reopening plan that he'd put in effect late last week as a result of a significant improvement in the state's testing efforts that hadn't appeared to be a priority until recently.
Abbott also said that 30,000 more people had been tested for COVID-19 in the past 15 days than the previous six-week stretch in April and the second half of March. The governor that more than 420,000 coronavirus tests had been administered since the initial outbreak.
Abbott indicated that a daily hike in the past week in the number of coronavirus cases that have been confirmed was a reflection of the increase in testing around the state. The number of people who died from coronavirus infections in Texas had gone up for five consecutive days last week with more than 1,000 fatalities in five of the past six days. But the governor said that the rate of positive tests in Texas had dropped from more than 7 percent two weeks ago to less than 5 percent in the past day.
Abbott said that Vice-President Mike Pence had assured him a telephone call on Monday that the federal government would be ramping up its emphasis on testing with plans for the Centers for Disease Control to have send 750,000 more test kits to Texas by the first of June.
The running count at Johns Hopkins University backed up the governor's assertion of an accelerated rate of testing here. After being dead last in the nation in testing in April, Texas ranks 11th now among the 15 states with the largest populations in terms of the number of COVID-19 tests that have been administered here.
Texas ranks 14th of the 15 largest states in the number of coronavirus deaths that the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is projecting here through the August 4. But the HME forecast of 3,632 fatalities from infections in Texas in the next three months is almost four times higher than it had been just two weeks ago when an Abbott stay-at-home order had been in effect and businesses that were deemed nonessential had been forced to remain closed.
Abbott said that "surge response teams" will be identifying potential hot spots and helping them be prepared for whenever the disease flares up in places like the Texas Panhandle where the rate of coronavirus infections has been substantially higher than the rest of the state as a consequence of outbreaks at meat packing plants near the Amarillo area.
more to come ...