State continues reopening, even as COVID-19 cases rise

Madison County case totals rise by 6 in past weeks

Posted 5/19/20

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, in Madison County rose from two to eight in the past week as testing efforts have increased.

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State continues reopening, even as COVID-19 cases rise

Madison County case totals rise by 6 in past weeks

Posted

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, in Madison County rose from two to eight in the past week as testing efforts have increased.

According to Madison County Emergency Management Coordinator Shelly Butts, 132 tests have been initiated in the County, with two results still pending. The Texas Department of State Health Services plan another round of drive-thru testing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Lake Madison Lake House.

County numbers reflect increased cases across the state, even while more businesses are allowed to reopen under orders by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

As of Monday afternoon, the DSHS said there were 48,693 reported cases in Texas, up from 41,048 a week earlier. Fatalities attributed to the virus in the same period rose from 1,133 to 1,347.

There have now been 639,276 tests for the virus performed in Texas.

Beginning Friday, bars can open up at 25% capacity. In addition, bingo parlors, bowling alleys, skating rinks, rodeos, aquariums and natural caverns can also open on Friday. Zoos may follow on May 29 but theme parks such as Six Flags will require further study, he said.

For restaurants, effective Friday, “the occupancy limitation increases to 50% of the total listed occupancy inside the restaurant,” according to an updated checklist on the state website https://gov.texas.gov/organization/opentexas.

When the reopening began, Madison County had only two cases, allowing restaurants and other businesses to open at 50% occupancy. Although the case total is now eight, that hasn’t changed.

“We have not received any notification from the state advising us to make any changes to our original 50% businesses at this time,” Butts said.

Also, by May 31, Abbott said youth sports and overnight camps can resume, along with professional sports (without fans).

And by June, in-person summer school can resume, so long as school districts follow social distancing practices and the state’s health protocols. The pandemic had previously forced students to stay at home and use distance learning via computer or packets picked up at school facilities. The social distancing measures also changed the structure of graduation ceremonies.

The Madisonville High School graduation ceremony will take place Thursday at Mustang Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Only five individuals will be allowed per party and each group must stay six feet away from one another at all times.

Barring weather, the North Zulch High School graduation will take place Friday at 8 p.m. at the NZHS track. Friday was pegged as the first option by the district in a graduation release earlier this month, with possible backup dates scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Both schools will follow the TEA’s stipulations for an in-person, open air ceremony.

When questioned Monday about entering into further phases of reopening, Abbott said numbers of cases – “a meaningful outbreak” – and concerns about hospital capacity in a particular area are what will cause him to hit the brakes.

But he noted that he can restore more hospital beds by again shutting down elective procedures in an area, or using some of the plans for “surge capacities” in various regions laid out by his hospital czar John Zerwas about a month ago.

Outbreaks in Shelby and Panola counties on the Texas-Louisiana border and in Washington County have been contained, he said.

“We've seen no evidence, no signs that raise any concerns about the possibility of retrenchment in Texas,” he said.

“What we intend to do to lower the unemployment rate … is to continue this process of opening up Texas,” Abbott said. He urged all Texans to help businesses be able to reopen by following social distancing and hand sanitation practices.

“Every day, I and everybody else with me, we strongly urge all Texans to continue safe distancing practices, to wear face masks if at all possible, to sanitize your hands. Do everything you possibly can to continue to slow the spread. If you do that, there will be more opportunities to open up the state even more.”

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