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A closer look at what happened every time Texas relaxed the rules and reopened

Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse says this virus thrives on opportunities to spread, and by rolling back COVID-19 restrictions, he expects cases to climb.

HOUSTON — If history is any indication we likely know what will happen with COVID-19 in Texas in the next few weeks. And health experts fear it's not good at all. 

To understand what might happen, it's important to go back over how we got here. 

Through March and April of last year, Texas was nearly locked down. Stay home orders were working. The state was averaging less than 2,000 new daily cases. Statewide hospitalizations never hovered above 1,800. 

On April 17, Gov. Greg Abbott decided it was time to open Texas up in phases. Bars, salons, restaurants, and gyms opened again with capacity limits throughout the month of May. 

"The worst of COVID-19 may soon be behind us," said Abbott in April. 

He was wrong. From June to July, Texas COVID hospitalizations spiked from an average of 2,000 to nearly 11,000. Texas saw more than 10,000 new COVID cases per day. 265 people were dying daily. 

"This virus is taking advantage of opportunities we give it, and we keep giving it opportunities, that's a problem," said Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse. 

Abbott opted for a statewide mask mandate on July 2. And it worked. Weeks later Texas started to improve. Hospitalizations dipped back down and Abbott opened Texas up again at 75% capacity in September. 

By October, bars could reopen too. 

"It is time to open them up," said Abbott in October.

You know what happened next. Texas second wave came quickly. By January 2021 we'd hit a record high more than 14,000 hospitalizations. More than 300 people were dying daily. And Texas saw nearly 20,000 new cases every single day.

"We have seen this several times now," said Persse. "Now every time we relax, a wave ensues and we these waves, people die, the situation gets worse."

And now as things are just starting to get better.

"It's time to open Texas up 100%," said Abbott on Tuesday. 

As a result, law enforcement already bracing for another spike in infections. 

"I would challenge the people of Houston, to come back and see our numbers, probably in the next six weeks, to see six weeks from now what our numbers look like, and I’ll bet anyone that wants to take the bet that our numbers will go high, will go up, significantly and I just pray to God that we don’t lose any police officers, any firefighters, or any of our friends or neighbors or family members," said HPD Chief Art Acevedo. 

What's most concerning to doctors is we're reopening at a time when hospitalizations are better, but still too high. If things do worsen, Houston's third wave could be the worst one yet.