Houston Continues to Re-open Despite Largest Single-Day Spike in Covid Cases

As the United States approaches the summer and, for some, three months of shelter-in-place, states are discussing the best way to re-open the economy. Each state, county, and city has put together guidelines on how to avoid another Covid-19 outbreak, but most agree that there should be a steady decrease or leveling-off of new cases and deaths.

Government officials in Houston have been rolling out plans to re-open more and more of the city, despite the largest single-day spike in Covid-19 cases in Texas since the pandemic began.

On May 16, 2020, the Texas Department of Health reported 1,800 new cases. The highest number of cases were reported in Dallas County and Harris County, which includes the city of Houston.

Why are New Cases Spiking in Texas?

While difficult to confirm, these higher numbers are likely the result of more testing being done in higher-risk areas. Health officials have been testing in higher-risk places like jails, nursing homes, and meat packing plants. As more people are able to be tested, more cases will be revealed.

As of this publication, over 1,300 people have died in Texas due to the novel coronavirus. In Harris County, including the city of Houston, there are reports of over 10,000 coronavirus cases.

Governor Greg Abbott deployed a Surge Response Team to Amarillo, where 700 new cases were reported on May 14, 2020. According to Abbott, there are plenty of resources available to handle a Covid-19 surge.

What Does the Houston Reopening Plan Look Like?

The state has already re-opened gyms, certain office buildings, and nonessential manufacturing facilities which must adhere to the recommended health protocols outlined by DSHS.

Gyms are able to open at 25% capacity. However, locker rooms and showers must remain closed. All equipment must be cleaned after each use and members should wear gloves that cover the entire hand while they work out. And of course, strict social distancing must be maintained.

Office buildings can also open up at 25% capacity. All personnel must follow social distance guidelines as well as the Health protocols outlined in the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Nonessential manufacturing facilities are able to open at 25% capacity and must follow strict healthcare guidelines.

Texas state parks have announced that they are opening up overnight camping but on a limited basis. Campers must continue to wear facemasks and exercise social distancing. Gatherings are limited to five people or less.

The Texas Department of Public Safety will begin re-opening offices May 26, 2020, with limited appointments. Governor Abbott has also announced a plan to re-open drivers license offices throughout the state. You can view details of that plan here.

As of May 22, 2020, bars are open at 25% capacity and restaurants are able to open back up to 50% capacity. Wineries, breweries, and wine tasting rooms have also opened up in accordance with new guidelines.

Additional businesses allowed to open as of this publication include:

  • Aquariums
  • Zoos
  • Skating Rinks
  • Bowling Alleys
  • Natural Caverns
  • Bingo Halls
  • Rodeos
  • YMCA
  • Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Childcare services

The governor also announced that summer camps are allowed to open up this summer. All camp staff and volunteers are required to be trained in the appropriate cleaning and disinfecting of camp property. They must also be trained on respiratory etiquette.

Youth sports teams may begin practicing on May 31, 2020. Parents can watch but they must practice social distancing.

After May 31st, professional sports organizations can apply to the state for approval to hold events in Texas. However, fans will not be able to attend these events.

Despite widespread opening of the Houston economy, there are still certain types of businesses that will remain closed for the time being. These include:

  • Tattoo parlors
  • Piercing studios
  • Video arcades
  • Amusement parks
  • Sexually oriented businesses
  • Massage studios
  • Water parks

What Steps Can You Take to Protect Yourself?

With a continued risk of covid-19 infection, you should take steps to protect your own health and avoid spreading illness to other people. Health professionals recommend that you:

  • Wash your hands,
  • Wear a mask,
  • Where workout gloves to a gym,
  • Clean everything you touch,
  • Don’t touch your face after touching things that have been on the floor or other surfaces that may not be clean

Governor Abbott continues to encourage people to stay home and practice social distancing. Harris county issued a stay home and work safe order that has been extended through June 10, 2020. Residents of Houston are asked to maintain vigilance as the virus continues to spread.