Texas charged toward reopening Friday despite the grim milestone of the state's deadliest single day since its first coronavirus case in March, raising new worries at a moment when Republican Gov. Greg Abbott says the time has come to start moving forward.
For the first time since early April, every restaurant and retailer across the state of nearly 30 million people is allowed to open doors to customers, although more widely in some cities than others and still under social distancing requirements. Hair salons, gyms and bars remain closed.
But on the brink of what Abbott said will be a slow and careful reopening of Texas, the state Thursday confronted what was a single-day record high for COVID-19 fatalities with 50. It raised the death toll to 119 over the past three days, the deadliest stretch since Texas’ first fatality in the pandemic was recorded March 17.
Abbott's office reacted to the numbers with calm. Spokesman John Wittman said hospitalization rates have remained steady and the infection rate per test is down to about 7%, compared with above 10% a few weeks ago.
Not all in Texas remain so confident. In tiny Paris, Texas, which had just a handful of cases barely a week ago, a weekend outbreak at a nursing home now has some businesses near the Oklahoma border reconsidering, illustrating the balancing act states are taking as they begin relaxing public health restrictions.
Iowa, Utah and Oklahoma are among a handful of other states that are also easing restrictions and partially reopening Friday.
A Texas Restaurant Association survey this week of about 430 of its members found that only about half planned to open, according to group President Emily Williams Knight.