COVID-19 update: Gov. Abbott announces plan to reopen Texas

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor’s note: The video published above details Bryce Newberry’s report before Gov. Abbott’s April 17 announcement. He spoke with Mayor Steve Adler about the potential of reopening Texas businesses.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state’s economic response to COVID-19 at a news conference on Friday, which included plans of reopening Texas businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Gov. Abbott issued three executive orders outlining how the state will begin to reopen businesses. He said the plan must be guided by data and doctors to reopen Texas businesses without spurring the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Abbott said he formed a strike force consisting of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Comptroller Glenn Hegar. Additionally, the strike force will be joined by a team of state health officials and specialists.

Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt was appointed chief medical officer of the strike force, who will be supported by Dr. John Zerwas, Dr. Mark McClellan and Dr. Parker Hudson.

The strike team will develop medical architecture that will allow Texas to safely reopen while waiting for the development of immunizations, according to Gov. Abbott.

Gov. Abbott the team will work with an advisory committee of Texas entrepreneurs to advise how to successfully reopen the Texas economy. Gov. Abbott said the committee will be run by Chairman James Huffines.

The governor reported he has already been working with this team to discuss how to reopen Texas businesses.

According to Gov. Abbott, the reopening of businesses will come in stages. The first stage, which goes into effect on Friday, April 17, includes the reopening of businesses that pose little to no threat of spreading COVID-19. The second stage will include additional openings after receiving additional input from medical experts. This stage is expected to come on April 27. More openings will be announced in May for the third stage once it is determined that testing capabilities are able to detect and contain outbreaks of COVID-19.

Regarding elective surgeries, Gov. Abbott said that since the state has enough hospital capacity and personal protective care, effective April 22, current restrictions on surgeries will be loosened. This order also increases the standards for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

RELATED: Texas schools closed for remainder of 2019-2020 school year, Gov. Abbott says

Gov. Abbott said all stores in Texas will be able to operate “retail-to-go” starting on April 24.

Additionally, Gov. Abbott said state parks will be reopened starting on April 20. Visitors will still be required to stay approximately six feet apart.

Regarding education, Gov. Abbott said Texas schools will be closed for the rest of the 2019/2020 school year. Gov. Abbott said officials will soon be providing advice on how to conduct graduations and finish the rest of the school year.

On Monday, April 27, Gov. Abbott said additional ways to reopen Texas will be announced. Gov. Abbott said the new plans will be based on how well COVID-19 has been contained in Texas and will outline safe practices for businesses to use. Additionally, Gov. Abbott said it may also expand the availability of elective surgeries.

The new orders, Executive Order No. GA-15, Executive Order No. GA-16 and Executive Order No. GA-17 can be found online.

In a live interview on KVUE live at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 10, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said any effort to reopen businesses in Texas must include strategies to prevent the spread of coronavirus.


What reopening Texas businesses could look like in Austin

‘Put Texas back to work!’ | Protesters rally at Texas State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion to reopen economy

On April 16, a group of protesters gathered outside the Texas State Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion in attempts to put pressure on Gov. Greg Abbott to reopen the state’s economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In light of the announcement, Austin Mayor Steve Adler spoke with caution when addressing the idea of reopening businesses. 

“We don’t want to return back to the same place we’ve already been,” Adler told KVUE. “It’s important to be able to open up the economy, but you have to be really careful if you do that for fear of undoing all the work that everybody has thus far been doing. The dangers are that we’ll have physical interactions again while the virus is in our community and not controlled and therefore we’ll have a spread of the virus that could multiply it quickly, get out of hand and overtax our hospital that leads to people unnecessarily dying.”

Democratic leaders in the Texas House of Representatives also weighed in on April 16 about the plan.

“The bottom line is this: Texas needs to follow doctor’s orders when it comes to fighting the coronavirus,” State Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, said.

The caucus is calling on Gov. Abbott to do four things before easing social distancing rules: 

Increase COVID-19 testingExpand MedicaidProvide more personal protective equipment to healthcare workersIncrease transparency on long-term care facilities/nursing homes



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