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Texas enters next reopening phase; new rules for businesses, outdoor events

High school football can resume in Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott announced June 3 that he is initiating Phase III of his plan to reopen Texas. Some of the directives took effect immediately, while others are being staggered over the next couple of weeks. This phase allows outdoor events of 500 or more people, including Fourth of July celebrations and high school football, to resume with restrictions. Photo by Martelle Luedecke

On June 3, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Phase III of his plan to reopen Texas and its economy. Effective immediately, businesses — with a few exceptions — can operate at 50 percent capacity. The next phase also clears a path for live theater, Fourth of July festivities, and even high school football this coming fall.

“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,” the governor said. “As anticipated, the new positive (COVID-19) cases that we are seeing are largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants. Thanks to the effectiveness of our Surge Response Teams, we have the ability to contain those hot spots while opening up Texas for business.”

However, some public health experts are concerned the state could see an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases due to the widespread demonstrations following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a police officer in Minnesota. Several Texas cities, including Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston, have had large protests. Though many people are wearing masks, health officials have concerns that demonstrators have not been or cannot practice social distancing protocols.

The governor is urging all Texans to continue following the standard health protocols associated with slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“If we remain vigilant, we will continue to mitigate the spread of this virus, protect public health, and get more Texans back to work and their daily activities,” Abbott added.

Below are some of the things happening under Phase III.

Effective June 3:

  • All businesses currently operating at 25 percent capacity can expand their occupancy to 50 percent with certain restrictions.
  • Bars and similar establishments may increase their capacity to 50 percent as long as patrons are seated.
  • Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with fewer than 1,000 confirmed positive cases may open at 50 percent capacity.
  • Restaurants may expand their maximum table size from six people to 10.

Effective June 12:

  • Restaurants may expand their occupancy limit to 75 percent.
  • All businesses in counties with 10 or fewer active COVID-19 cases may expand their occupancy limit to 75 percent. Counties that fit this category but have not previously filed an attestation with the Texas Department of State Health Services will need to do so.

Effective June 19:

  • Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with more than 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 may open at 50 percent capacity.

Special provisions have been made for outdoor gatherings, such as Fourth of July celebrations, but local officials and public health officials should collaborate on safe standards. Those provisions can be found on the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas website along with more details on other steps toward reopening the state.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick applauded the Phase III announcement.

“Governor Abbott’s announcement (June 3) that Texas is moving to Phase III is great news for every Texas worker and every Texas business,” he stated in a media release. “Friday night football will be back at 50 percent capacity along with fans being able to attend (Major League Baseball), NFL, and NBA games as well as concerts and live theater.”

Under the outdoor events provision, the governor is allowing for “large outdoor gatherings with estimated attendance of 500 or more.” But Abbott is also giving flexibility to county judges and mayors in modifying outdoor events or their occupancy if, after consulting with local public health authorities, such changes are needed.