Texas governor’s executive order holds different standards for rural counties

Counties with 5 or fewer COVID-19 cases can have increased occupancy

See the interactive map below. | Illustration by Henry Keller
See the interactive map below. | Illustration by Henry Keller (KSAT)

As the state’s stay-at-home orders expire at the end of the month, rural counties less impacted by the coronavirus will have looser restrictions to adhere to.

On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that once the emergency order expires on Friday, retail stores, malls and movie theaters can open up with 25% occupancy as many cities in Texas are still dealing with the spread of COVID-19.

Churches and other places of worship can expand operations under social distancing guidelines, and dentists and other health care services can also open up. Outdoor sports are allowed, but no more than four people can be playing at once.

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During his announcement, Abbott acknowledged that 49 of Texas’ 254 counties have not reported any COVID-19 cases.

Because these rural counties have been less impacted by the virus than population centers, Abbott’s new order allows counties with five or fewer cases to have up to 50% occupancy at retail stores, dine-in restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, museums and libraries.

However, there are testing guidelines the counties need to have in place, according to state officials.

These counties must have testing opportunities for its residents and comply with CDC guidelines on nursing homes, assisted living facilities and jails.

The relaxed restrictions can be implemented once the Texas Department of Health and Human Services affirms all the conditions have been met. More information about those conditions can be found here.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March. The first case confirmed in the U.S. was in mid-January and the first case confirmed in San Antonio was in mid-February.

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