Gov. Abbott announces 'temporary pause' on reopening of Texas as COVID-19 outbreak worsens

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday announced a temporary pause on any further phases to reopen Texas as the state responds to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Businesses that were permitted to open under the previous phases can continue to operate at the designated occupancy levels and under the minimum standard health protocols provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business," Abbott said in a statement.

Abbott also issued an executive order to ensure hospital bed availability for COVID-19 patients as Texas faces an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. 

The governor’s order suspends elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties.

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According to the order, all hospitals in these counties are directed to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician. 

Through proclamation, Gov. Abbott can add or subtract from the list of counties included in the executive order to address surges in hospitalizations that may arise in other parts of the state.

“As Texas faces a rise in COVID-19 cases, we are focused on both slowing the spread of this virus and maintaining sufficient hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients,” he said. “These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and today’s action is a precautionary step to help ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients."

Abbott said for the first time on Wednesday that the state is facing a “massive outbreak."

Texas health officials reported a record-high 5,551 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, and another record of 4,389 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Texas also reported 29 new fatalities and saw its rate of positive tests reach 10.4%, its highest level since mid-April when Texas was still under stay-at-home orders.

Also on Wednesday, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut began to require people traveling from Texas and other states with rising cases to quarantine for 14 days.

RELATED: Interactive map of Texas COVID-19 cases