US: Texas partially reopens businesses amid sudden spike in COVID-19 deaths

US: Texas partially reopens businesses amid sudden spike in COVID-19 deaths
By Seema Hakhu Kachru(Eds: Updating with fresh details)

Houston, May 1 () Texas, the second largest state in the US, partially re-opened businesses on Friday with limited occupancy in a bid to restore livelihoods, amid a sudden spike in the number of coronavirus deaths.

As many as 50 coronavirus patients died in Texas on Thursday - the highest in single day since the first fatality was reported in mid-March. The state also reported an additional 1,033 COVID-19 cases, the highest since April 10.

The grim numbers came few hours before Governor Greg Abbott's announcement of lifting restrictions from several businesses.
Texas has now a total of over 29,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 810 deaths due to the disease. The US, the worst affected country, has reported over 1,039,909 coronavirus infections and more than 62,000 fatalities.

With the 'stay at home' order, which was in place since April 4, ending on Thursday midnight, all retail stores, restaurants, movie theatres, malls, libraries and museums were allowed to open, but at only 25 per cent capacity.

Abbott said all churches can hold expanded services beginning Friday.

"This is permission to open, not a requirement," he said, announcing the first phase of the Texas' ongoing plan to safely and strategically open the US state, while minimizing the spread of the coronavirus.

Outdoor sports are also allowed as long as it does not involve more than four participants.However, public swimming pools, bars, gyms, cosmetology salons, massage parlours, interactive amusement venues like bowling alleys and video arcades, and tattoo and piercing studios will remain closed in the first phase.

Nursing homes, state-supported living centres, assisted living and long-term care facilities will also remain closed to visitors unless to provide critical assistance.

"My hope is that they'll open on or no later than mid-May," Abbott said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has issued minimum standard health protocols for all businesses and individuals to follow.

Abbott also announced a statewide testing and tracing programme, developed by the DSHS, that will help public health officials to quickly identify and test Texans who contract COVID-19 and mitigate further spread of the virus.

Special guidance has been outlined for Texans aged over 65 years and detailed a comprehensive mitigation plan for nursing homes.

"This strategic approach to opening the state of Texas prioritises the health and safety of our communities and follows the guidelines laid out by our team of medical experts," Abbott said.
Abbott said the second phase of the state's reopening will happen around May 18, during which more businesses will be open and those opened in Phase-I will be allowed to expand their operations.

In Phase-II, the occupancy limit will be expand to 50 per cent.

Abbott said COVID-19 in Texas has been on the decline in the past 17 days. Over 3,000 members of the Texas National Guard have been deployed across the state to operate 25 mobile COVID-19 testing sites.

Abbott said, "We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask. However, it's not a mandate, and we made it clear, no jurisdiction can impose any type of penalty or fine."

As parts of the US economy return on Friday, health experts are urging people to continue practising social distancing, wearing masks and to stay at home as much as possible to prevent infections. SHK SCY

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