Texas Governor Greg Abbott Pauses Reopening

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.

  • Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

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.”

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