Abbott announces which Texas businesses can and can’t open May 1

Rebecca Hennes

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks about the state’s response to COVID-19 during a news conference on Monday, April 13, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

>>>PHOTOS: See the latest coverage of coronavirus response in Houston…

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks about the state’s response to COVID-19 during a news conference on Monday, April 13, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

>>>PHOTOS: See

… more

Photo: Nick Wagner, MBR / Associated Press

Photo: Nick Wagner, MBR / Associated Press

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks about the state’s response to COVID-19 during a news conference on Monday, April 13, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

>>>PHOTOS: See the latest coverage of coronavirus response in Houston…

less

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks about the state’s response to COVID-19 during a news conference on Monday, April 13, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

>>>PHOTOS: See

… more

Photo: Nick Wagner, MBR / Associated Press

Abbott announces which Texas businesses can and can’t open May 1

Gov. Greg Abbott outlined his plans for the state to reopen during a Monday news conference at the State Capitol, which includes letting the state’s stay-home, work-safe order expire as planned on April 30.

Abbott’s plan to allow businesses to reopen consists of two phases. Beginning Friday, May 1, all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, museums, libraries, churches and places of worship can reopen with occupancy limited to no more than 25 percent. Interactive exhibits at museums and libraries must remain closed at this time.

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Once two weeks of state data show no flareups of COVID-19, Abbott said he hopes the state can progress to phase 2 on May 18. Phase 2 would increase occupancy for the above-listed businesses to 50 percent.

Phase one also allows for outdoor sports with no more than four players to resume. All licensed healthcare professionals are allowed to return to work, but hospitals must reserve 15 percent of capacity for COVID-19 patients.

Barbershops, hair salons, bars and gyms must remain closed at this time. Abbott said he hopes to reopen these businesses by mid-May.

The state’s medical experts are still working on safe ways to allow children to attend summer camps or other group activities. Abbott did not offer more details on when those may be allowed to reopen.

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The occupancy requirements will vary by county. Rural counties with five or fewer COVID-19 cases – which accounts for half of the counties in Texas – can reopen the above-listed businesses with 50 percent occupancy.

Abbott stressed a critical component to reopening the state is to protect the elderly and vulnerable. Those populations should continue to stay home and businesses should reduce their exposure to people who are at greater risk with measures that limit person-to-person contact. The state will redouble its efforts to protect seniors in nursing homes and senior living facilities.

“The more we do to protect the vulnerable senior population, the faster we can safely open businesses in Texas,” Abbott said.

Citing other counties that re-opened too quickly and saw a resurgence in cases, Abbott said this phased-out process will help prevent another outbreak and having to close down the state again. The plans were crafted and approved by medical professionals, doctors, infectious disease experts and is consistent with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“It’s hard to get rid of this virus because it is so contagious,” Abbott said. “We are not just going to open up and hope for the best.”

Failure to abide by any executive order could result in a $1,000 fine, up to 180 days in jail or loss of a business license. Abbott stressed that the phased reopening of businesses is not mandated; business owners who wish to stay closed can do so until they feel safe.

Rebecca Hennes covers community news. Read her on our breaking news site, Chron.com, and on our subscriber site, houstonchronicle.com. | rebecca.hennes@chron.com 


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