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Rio Grande Valley excluded from next phase of state reopening process

Most of the state will be allowed to loosen restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic as early as next week, with the exception of the Rio Grande Valley and two other areas still designated as having a high amount of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

During a Thursday press conference, state Gov. Greg Abbott announced an expansion of the capacity of several businesses such as restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, gyms and exercise facilities and classes, museums, and libraries, and re-authorizing elective surgeries for a majority of the state of Texas. The governor also announced new guidance related to visitations at nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state beginning on Monday.

Under the expansion, restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, gyms, exercise facilities and classes, museums, and libraries can resume to having a 75 percent occupancy rate while the area of Victoria, Laredo, and the lower Rio Grande Valley must remain at 50 percent occupancy according to a release from the governor’s office.

Elective surgeries in these areas also to also continue to be postponed until the state’s newly announced hospitalized metric system sees that the areas have seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of all hospitalized patients is 15% or less.

The affected counties include: Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca, Victoria, Jim Hogg, Webb, Zapata, Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy.

“Texans should remember that a steady and significant decline in COVID-19 cases is not a sign to let up in our vigilance against the virus,” Abbott stated in a news release. “Instead, Texans must continue to heed the guidance of medical experts by wearing a mask, social distancing, and practicing proper sanitation strategies. By maintaining health and safety standards that are proven to mitigate COVID-19, we can continue to slow the spread while opening up the Texas economy.”

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez expressed support for Abbott’s exclusion.

“I cannot object to Governor Abbott’s decision to exclude Hidalgo County from relaxing some of his restrictions,” Cortez stated. “I am encouraged that hospitalization rates locally are falling. But based on the advice of local experts, I have concluded, like the governor, that it may be premature to loosen additional restrictions. That is why my latest order remains in effect until the end of this month, giving me time to better assess where we stand in Hidalgo County.”

According to the Hidalgo County website, 230 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19 related complications and 84 of them are being treated in intensive care units as of Thursday.

The county has seen 1,470 COVID-19 deaths in the county out of a total of 30,046 COVID-19 cases. 2,090 of those cases remain active.


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