Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is allowing his Stay at Home order issued in March to expire on Thursday and is filing a new one that will allow some businesses to reopen on Friday, May 1 as part of Phase 1 of his Open Texas plan.
During a news conference in Austin Monday afternoon, Abbott said restaurants, malls, retail stores and movie theaters can reopen on May 1 but will be limited to 25% of their capacity. Museums and libraries are included, but interactive stations and exhibits must remain closed. Within malls, the governor said all food courts, play areas and interactive displays also must remain closed.
Thousands of non-essential businesses have been closed all across the state for several weeks since restrictions were first put into place to help slow the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus.
“This strategic approach to opening the state of Texas prioritizes the health and safety of our communities and follows the guidelines laid out by our team of medical experts,” said Abbott in a prepared statement. “Now more than ever, Texans must remain committed to safe distancing practices that reduce the spread of COVID-19, and we must continue to rely on doctors and data to provide us with the safest strategies to restore Texans’ livelihoods. We must also focus on protecting the most vulnerable Texans from exposure to COVID-19. If we remain focused on protecting the lives of our fellow Texans, we can continue to open the Lone Star State.”
Abbott said not all businesses could open at once and that bars, salons, gyms and barbershops are still ordered to remain closed for the time being. Abbott said he hoped they would be able to resume operations in mid May, provided COVID-19 outbreak is kept in check.
“Public swimming pools, bars, gyms, cosmetology salons, massage establishments, interactive amusement venues, such as bowling alleys and video arcades, and tattoo and piercing studios will remain closed through Phase I,” the governor’s office said. “Nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities must remain closed to visitors unless to provide critical assistance.”
Abbott said Texans are free to return to outdoor sports, such as golf and tennis, so long as there are no more than four participants and that players maintain social/physical distancing.
The governor is also allowing all licensed physicians to return to work, with limited restrictions including that hospital bed availability must hold back 50% for COVID-19 patients.
Local government operations, including county and municipal government operations relating to permitting, recordation, and document-filing services, may reopen as determined by the local government.
For counties where there are fewer than five confirmed cases of COVID-19, capacity at those businesses are allowed to hit 50% on May 1.
During Phase Two of Abbott’s Open Texas plan, which is expected to start on or after May 18, businesses that opened on May 1 could expand capacity to 50%.
Additionally, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is issuing minimum standard health protocols for all businesses and individuals to follow. The state has published a guide, Open Texas, which outlines how businesses can open safely with standards for how businesses should handle employees and customers.
Monday afternoon Abbott also announced a new statewide testing and contact tracing program. Developed and implemented by DSHS, this program will help identify individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and those who may need to quarantine or be tested due to potential exposure. This phased implementation will allow Texans to box in the virus and slow, or even stop, further spread.
Lastly, Abbott issued Executive Order GA-20 to eliminate the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for individuals traveling from Louisiana. Under GA-20, the mandated 14-day quarantine for travelers from the following areas remains in place: California; Connecticut; New York; New Jersey; Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan, and Miami, Florida.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is set to announce the next steps toward reopening the state’s economy during a news conference scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Monday.
As a direct result of those business closings since March, 280,406 Texans filed for unemployment relief for the week ending April 18, according to figures provided by the Texas Workforce Commission. That number was a more than 2,000% increase over any week in 2019, according to a report in the Texas Tribune.
Last week, the state began the process of re-opening businesses by allowing several retailers to offer “retail-to-go” services. Those businesses that adopt the method will be able to sell items online and allow customers to come to the store for curbside pickup.
In addition, Abbott announced an easing of restrictions on elective surgeries last week.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.