Texas in 8th place for fewer coronavirus restrictions

Claire Kowalick

Claire Kowalick, Wichita Falls Times Record News
Published 5:47 p.m. CT May 5, 2020

Over the next couple weeks, Texans will anxiously await the outcome of loosened shelter-in-place restrictions set into motion Friday by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The move is a effort to help Texans regain economic momentum while keeping some restrictions in place in a four-phase plan to hopefully lessen the impact of COVID-19.

Opening states too soon, experts say, could put the country at risk of additional waves of the virus and force subsequent shelter-in-place orders. 

Even prior to the reopening, Texas was one of the most lenient states for coronavirus restrictions.

Read more: Study: Texas 29th in difficulty social distancing

According to a recent WalletHub study, Texas is the eighth-least restrictive state when it comes to COVID-19 regulations.

South Dakota was named the most lenient state for coronavirus restrictions, followed by Utah, North Dakota, Missouri and Idaho.

Some of the most restrictive states are Maine, Nevada, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Minnesota.

For the study, WalletHub researchers looked at nine metrics with various weights on a 100-point scale for leniency. Texas scored a 63.08, placing the state as the eighth-most lenient.

Metrics for the study include the state’s:

Requirement of face masks in publicTravel restrictionsLarge gathering restrictionsStatewide school restartReopening of restaurants and barsReopening of non-essential businessesStrictness of shelter-in-place ordersSuspension or postponement of legislative sessionsGuidance on elective surgery or medical procedures

Many experts say loosening restrictions should only come when there is enough testing capacity and the area is seeing a steady decline in cases. No states so far have met these requirements before loosened restrictions.

Emilee Young of Austin Lorin, Colleyville’s Favorite Boutique arranges tops as the store reopened on April 24 in Colleyville, Texas, United States;  (Photo: Raymond Carlin III, Raymond Carlin III / USA TODAY Network)

In the WalletHub study, Texas was the least restrictive state when it came to requiring a face mask in public and the reopening of non-essential businesses.

The state is the third least restrictive in the reopening of restaurants and bars. 

Texas is the seventh least restrictive for shelter-in-place orders.  

The state is 10th least restrictive in limiting large groups and 11th least restrictive for travel regulations. 

Keep reading: Hospital to close COVID-19 tents due to decreased need

The reopening of Texas is happening even as the state continues to have record numbers of daily new cases and has one of the lowest testing rates per capita in the United States.

As of mid-April, Texas conducted the fewest COVID-19 tests per capita at about 3,660 tests per 1 million residents.

As of May 5, 213 of the states 254 counties have reported at least one case of COVID -19. The highest amount of cases is in Harris County (Houston area) at 6,838 cases, followed by Dallas County with 4,133 cases.

There have been 407,398 COVID-19 tests conducted in the state – 393,554 of the test were in private labs. 

A recent data review by USA Today found only Kansas trailed Texas in the number of COVID-19 tests conducted per capita. 

Texas has had a total of 32,332 positive cases, 884 deaths and 16,090 patients recovered. There are 1,888 COVID-19 patients currently in Texas hospitals.

Others are reading: Coronavirus economy imperils small businesses, entrepreneurs in Wichita Falls

To attempt getting back to normal, health experts recommend wearing a face mask in public, maintaining social distancing, not mingling in large groups and maintaining good personal hygiene including hand washing.

Clair Yang, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, said some of the efforts that worked in other countries to flatten the curve of new COVID-19 cases would be seen as a huge infringement on personal privacy in the U.S.

East Asian countries including South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and China all implemented strict rules including digital contact tracing and digital travel histories of patients.

“Contact tracing can be a serious infringement of individual privacy, but one’s travel data if used in the right way could also have positive external value for the general public. At the end of the day, it is a trade-off between public goods and individual rights,” Yang said.

Data for this study came from the National Governors Association, Kaiser Family Foundation, Editorial Projects in Education, National Conference of State Legislatures, American College of Radiology, the COVID Tracking Project and news reports.

For the full report, go to: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-fewest-coronavirus-restrictions/73818/.

Claire Kowalick, a senior journalist for the Times Record News, covers local government, military and MSU Texas. If you have a news tip, contact Claire at ckowalick@gannett.com.

Twitter: @KowalickNews

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