The situation is perhaps most urgent in Texas, the nation’s second-largest state, which was under one of the shortest stay-at-home orders when Mr. Abbott, a Republican, decided to reopen the state in phases on May 1.
The virus has since spread rapidly in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and other large cities in all regions of the state. Total known cases have topped 100,000, and on Wednesday, the state recorded its most new cases in a single day, with more than 6,200 new infections.
“The governor’s plan was always predicated on a very high rate of voluntary compliance with things like wearing masks and socially distancing,” said Mayor Eric Johnson of Dallas, a Democrat, who has been pushing for a statewide mask policy. “I think what we’re seeing is that was a miscalculation.”
Mr. Abbott’s response to the increase in cases has been contradictory, and he has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans over his handling of the stay-at-home order and mask requirements. In recent weeks, he has declared the state open for business, but has also said that Texans should stay home. He has said Texans should wear masks, but he has refused to issue a statewide mandate. His pausing of the reopening was viewed as yet another half-measure by his critics, some of whom called on him to roll back the reopening entirely, a move the governor suggested on Thursday that he opposed.
“We are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families,” Mr. Abbott said on Thursday. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backward and close down businesses.”
Mr. Abbott called the pausing of the reopening “temporary” but did not indicate when he would resume the process. Bars now operate at 50 percent capacity, while restaurants operate at 75 percent capacity. Yet in many ways, the state feels fully reopened. Beaches and shops in Galveston have been packed. Malls from Houston to the border city of McAllen are busy throughout the day. Diners eat indoors and outdoors at restaurants in San Antonio, Austin and Houston.
But the decision to reopen the state has been fraught for some business owners, including Omar YeeFoon, who owns Shoals Sound & Service, a cocktail bar in Dallas. “We were open for four days, and the cases just started going up and up,” he said. Mr. YeeFoon, 43, added that he thought reopening too quickly had also harmed business. “People are starting to get more and more scared. Less people want to go out.”