Texas bars, restaurants and retailers will be allowed to serve more customers -- in some cases immediately -- under new orders from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday to further open the state economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Abbott's order for "Phase 3" of the restart also allows for outdoor Fourth of July celebrations of 500 or more at the discretion of local officials.
Retailers are allowed to expand to 50% capacity immediately and the same applies to bars as long as patrons are seated. Restaurants can serve groups as large as 10 and can expand to 75% total capacity starting June 12.
The order also allows amusement parks to gradually expand capacity. All are supposed to follow health and social distancing standards recommended by state and federal officials.
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The new order comes just three days after the state set a single-day high of positive tests. Texas has reported three of its four highest days of positive tests since March within the last week.
Heath officials reported 1,703 new cases and 36 new fatalities on Wednesday and state data showed the seven-day positivity rated jumped to higher than 6.6 %, its highest mark since May. 12. The true number is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
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The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks in most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Abbott said nearly half of the positive tests came from prisons, jails, nursing homes and meat-packing plants where the state had concentrated testing forces in recent days.
"We have the ability to contain those hot spots while opening up Texas for business," Abbott said. "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."
Texas has had record unemployment numbers amid the pandemic. The 12.8% unemployment rate reported in April was the highest dating back to 1976.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.