Eleanor Dearman, El Paso Times
Published 11:00 a.m. MT April 17, 2020 | Updated 11:45 a.m. MT April 17, 2020
AUSTIN — Texas will begin reopening its economy in stages, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a Friday news conference.
The governor also announced e a statewide “strike force” to aid in the process of reopening businesses, public activities and non-essential health care treatments in hospitals.
“This team will collaborate with working groups to open up Texas while keeping our communities safe,” Abbott said.
Abbott said that starting April 22 current restrictions on surgery will be loosened. All stores will be allowed to reopen on April 24 using a “retail to-go” model.
State parks will be reopened on Monday, he said. Visitors will be required to wear face masks and must keep six feet of distance from those not part of their household. Park visitors also cannot gather in groups larger than five, Abbott said.
The governor promised “enhanced testing” activities to track the spread of the coronavirus as business activity increases in Texas. State officials claimed that “more and more testing” is headed to Texas.
Abbott has said that reopening businesses will be a slow, phased process consistent with pandemic data and medical analysis.
“We have to understand that we must reopen in a way in which we are able to stimulate the economy while at the very same time ensuring that we contain the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said
The Center for Decease Control and Federal Emergency Management Agency released guidelines to reopen America on Thursday.
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It warns: “Models indicate 30-day shelter in place followed by 180-day lifting of all mitigation results in large rebound curve — some level of mitigation will be needed until vaccines or broad community immunity is achieved for recovering communities.”
The document adds that reopening communities in a phased approach “will entail a significant risk of resurgence of the virus.”
More: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announces $50 million small business loan initiative
The Texas Legislature’s House Democratic Caucus said during a Thursday news conference that before easing social distancing measures in the state, the governor should:
Increase testing for the coronavirusExpand MedicaidEnsure an adequate supply of personal protective equipment essential workers, such as medical providers Provide more transparency about “what is being done to protect some of our most vulnerable fellow Texans,” particularly those in nursing and long-term care faculties
“Texas needs to follow the doctor’s orders when it comes to fighting the coronavirus. We all want business to reopen as soon as possible, but that can only happen when it is safe to do so,” said Chris Turner, caucus chairperson.
Abbott is correct to call for “a gradual approach to reopening the Texas economy” that’s rooted in public health and science, John Carlo, chairman of the Texas Public Health Coalition, said a statement Tuesday.
He noted that “returning to business is everyone’s preference” but to do so, conditions must be met.
“These include immediate scaling up of COVID-19 testing so that all cases in Texas can be quickly identified, enhancing local public health capacity for contact tracing, providing adequate personal protective equipment for health care workers in all practice settings, and documenting continued declines in new cases so that hospitals do not become overwhelmed,” Carlo said.
“By following public health recommendations so far, state and local elected officials have already saved lives,” Carlo added. “Any decisions to relax current restrictions and reopen the economy should continue to be guided by sound public health science and made with the state’s top public health experts at the table.”
More: Coronavirus in Texas: Abbott says order coming soon related to plan for reopening businesses
There are more than 16,400 cases of COVID-19 in the state and 191 of the state’s 254 counties are reporting cases, according to Department of State Health Services figures posted Thursday. There have been 393 fatalities. More than 158,000 tests have been done in Texas, which has an estimated population of approximately 29 million people.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Eleanor Dearman may be reached at 361-244-0047; email@example.com; @EllyDearman on Twitter.
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