Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Friday to set up plans to reopen Texas businesses that have been closed to protect people from the coronavirus.
“Understand, opening Texas has to take part in stages,” he said at a televised noon news conference. School classrooms will be closed for the remainder of the school year, he said.
The state will start with openings today that will include minimal risk for the spread of COVID-19, he said. Opening more locations will depend on what medical experts say and what the data shows.
Dr. David C. Fleeger, president of the Texas Medical Association, said, “Texas physicians are pleased that Gov. Abbott is taking a gradual, science-based approach to reopen the Texas economy safely. We applaud the governor for placing four outstanding physicians on his recovery strike force and for stating in such a straight-forward manner, ‘We must be guided by the data and the doctors. We must put health and safety first.’”
A core component will be tied to increased testing, Abbott said, citing conversations with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and other advisors.
Abbott has appointed an advisory committee that includes people in government, medicine and business. The plan includes medical testing and treatment, advice from economic experts and other advisors.
“The team of advisors have already finished their first meeting,” Abbott said.
He noted that non-essential medical treatment that had been shut down will be brought back while being sure that personal protection equipment will be available for medical workers, coronavirus patients and other people being treated.
That could be an issue, as a Texas Medical Association survey conducted late last week revealed that nearly two-thirds of non-hospital based/community physicians said they have less than one week’s supply of the most critical supplies of appropriate personal protective equipment.
“We are enhancing standards for vulnerable seniors” who live in nursing homes and other facilities, Abbott said.
All stores in Texas will be able to operate “retail to go” beginning next Friday, Abbott said. They will have to operate under what he called “safe standards” to thwart the spread of the coronavirus.
State parks will be reopened beginning Monday, with visitors required to wear face covering and not gather in groups larger than five.
On April 27, there will be additional ways to open Texas announced, he said. It will involve comprehensive testing and assurances of hospital coverage, as there are currently available beds.
“It will depend on how well contained COVID-19 is in the state of Texas,” Abbott said.
Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, said that enhanced testing ability will be important to the effort.
Some other strategies that were mentioned is if the spread arises, pockets of concentration could be shut down. Abbott mentioned the possibility of a stricter standard being set again for a community that is hit hard.
“We will consider all strategies that may open up Texas while also keeping us protected from COVID-19,” Abbott said.
He noted that the state has overcome other challenges and can take on this one.