| Austin American-Statesman
Gov. Greg Abbott appears poised to reopen Texas bars and lift additional coronavirus restrictions, citing declines in COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths, new cases and the percent of people testing positive for the virus.
“Texans have continued to keep COVID under control,” Abbott tweeted Monday afternoon. “The hospitalizations, number of new positive cases, and positivity rate remain contained. Today was one of the lowest for fatalities in a long time. I will be announcing more openings soon. Cheers!”
The governor’s tweet included a GIF of two beers clinking together.
Last month, Abbott lifted additional restrictions for most of the state, allowing restaurants, retail and other businesses operating at 50% capacity to move to 75%. Bars remained closed under the order although some have been able to reopen by selling more food than alcohol.
Meanwhile, Democrats have been critical of Abbott’s response to the coronavirus, saying he rushed to reopen the economy while facing pressure from his own party.
Texas Democratic Party spokesman Abhi Rahman criticized the possibility of further reopenings Monday.
“This is unacceptable,” Rahman said. “This is the direct result of failed Republican leadership at the federal and state levels.”
Texas health officials reported eight new coronavirus deaths Monday, bringing the statewide death toll of the virus to 16,033. The new deaths likely occurred over the past week or more because of a new method to collect data using death certificates rather than reports from local health authorities.
The Texas Department of State Health Services also reported 2,192 new cases Monday, bring the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic to 769,303.
Health officials estimate that more than 680,000 Texans have recovered from the coronavirus. That number is based on confirmed cases, hospitalizations and the average recovery time of COVID-19.
The number of new cases reported each day has plateaued since mid-September, although health experts warn that Texans shouldn’t let their guard down as flu season approaches.
On Monday, rolling seven-day average of cases hovered just above 3,000.
Abbott also cited a declining positivity rate, or the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19, a number that has stayed below 7% since Sept. 10.
After consistently pointing to the number to determine which types of businesses can reopen and when, Abbott shifted to hospitalizations as his key metric while the health agency dealt with a backlog in cases that made the positivity rate fluctuate through August.
In September, The Texas Department of State Health Services refined how it calculates the percentage of positive tests, and began offering two additional measures to display the positivity rate of the virus.
But the updated methodology for the positivity rate revealed that the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 was higher than state health officials reported at the time.
The agency said the number that uses the date the person was tested is the most accurate display of the positivity rate. The seven-day rolling positivity rate was at 6.23% Monday.
There were 3,318 coronavirus patients in Texas hospitals Monday, a number that appears to have plateaued since mid-September.
Hospitalizations reached a peak of 10,893 on July 22.