Abbott reopens water parks, food courts, adult rec sports

Courtesy photo

AUSTIN (AP) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took another step Tuesday in his phased reopening of statewide activities after the coronavirus lockdown.

The Republican governor issued a proclamation that allows the reopening of water parks and shopping mall food courts and the resumption of adult recreational sports and driver’s education programs.

Effective Friday, water parks may open but limit occupancy to 25% of their capacity and keep any video arcades closed, the proclamation states.

Among the water parks that will open for the summer season is Beach Park at Isla Blanca on South Padre Island.

Formerly known as Schlitterbahn South Padre Island, the water park has rebranded as Beach Park after the other Texas properties were sold to an Ohio-based company.

The adult recreation sports may resume Sunday, but games and similar competitions must wait until June 15. Continued social distancing is urged for food courts.

The steps come a week after Abbott allowed bars, breweries and tasting rooms were allowed to reopen Friday at 25% capacity and with other social distancing measures in place. Rodeos, bingo halls and aquariums also were allowed to reopen. Restrictions on restaurants, which were allowed to reopen May 1 at 25% customer capacity, were loosened to allow 50% occupancy.

Abbott has noted increased testing in Texas, a rate of infection that has steadily hovered around 5%, and available hospital space as reasons to gradually reopen, and the governor has been steadily rolling back restrictions. That has led some Democratic leaders in the state’s largest cities to question whether it is happening too fast, while some business leaders say it’s not quick enough.

In Houston, Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner has questioned whether the state will help cities enforce what limits are still left.

The total of confirmed cases reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, rose by a slower rate than last week’s pace — by 589 cases Tuesday to 56,561. Nine COVID-19 fatalities reported Tuesday brought the death toll to 1,536.

The true numbers are likely higher, however, because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.