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Nueces County included in guv's COVID-19 orders

COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed in most of the state, including Nueces County, by order of Gov. Greg Abbott. Despite the new, more relaxed rules, the governor urged Texans to continue to be vigilant in wearing face coverings, keeping their distance, and washing their hands.

Nueces County businesses, excluding bars, will be able to open at 75 percent capacity as of Monday, Sept. 21, announced Gov. Greg Abbott at a news conference in Austin on Thursday, Sept. 17. Also, visitation restrictions at nursing homes and long-term care facilities will be eased starting Sept. 24. Elective surgeries in these Trauma Service Areas can recommence, and hospitals only need reserve 10 percent of their capacity for COVID-19 patients.

These new rules apply only in counties within TSAs with COVID-19 hospitalizations under 15 percent over seven consecutive days. TSAs over 15 percent — Laredo, Lower Rio Grande Valley, and Victoria — will not be able to loosen restrictions.

In Nueces County, 19 of 22 regional hospitals reached the requirements and can resume elective surgeries.

“I applaud this order today, which gives us the flexibility to increase restrictions when and where needed or relax them if the data support it,” Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales said at the joint city/county news conference Thursday. “The governor has used reliable data-driven hospitalization metrics to make these decisions, and I am proud that Nueces County was one of the 19 TSA who qualifies. We got there because of these metrics, these real numbers.”

In July, Nueces County was named the worst county in the nation for COVID-19 cases based on those same metrics, she reminded. It is now one of the best in the state.

“We haven’t gone perfectly yet from worse to first, but, boy, have we made improvements,” she said. “Not just in one category but in all categories.”

Nueces is surrounded by the TSAs who did not make the cut in restriction relaxation orders.

“Over time, we have bent this curve, not just flattened it,” Canales continued. “But curves, like roller coasters, can go back up. I want to urge everyone to continue to proactive the prevention practices we adopted and adapted to. What we are doing with occupancy limits, social distancing, and hygiene are working, but they are working in tandem.”

Canales will sign county orders that align with the governor's state orders by Friday afternoon, Sept. 18.

Business that can expand their capacity to 75 percent are restaurants, gyms and exercise facilities and classes, manufacturers, museums and libraries, office buildings, and retailers.

At long-term care facilities, two people may be designated per patient for visitation, though only one at a time will be allowed in. Designated caregivers will need to undergo training.

This will be allowed only in facilities without an active COVID-19 case for 14 consecutive days. Visitations must be non-touch and either outside, through windows, or in designated rooms with plexiglass partitions. Barbers and hairdressers are now allowed to provide services to residents.

“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 said at the news conference. “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."

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