Governor Greg Abbott outlined plans to reopen Texas during his press conference Monday afternoon. The stay at home safe order in place will be allowed to expire at the end of the month. He outlined a plan to begin opening businesses starting May 1.
Abbott said the stay at home safe order had done it’s place to reduce the spread of COVID-19. He announced three phases to reopen businesses in increments,
All retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls can reopen May 1, provided they minimize exposure and limit occupancy to no more than 25 percent.
If Phase I works, Phase II will allow businesses to open with 50 percent occupancy. This could happen around May 18, depending on COVID-19 remaining containing. The state then would continue to expand as long as COVID-19 remains contained.
This allows businesses to re-open, but does not require them to do so. If a business feels unsafe or does not want to reopen, that business is not requirement to do so, Abbott said.
All museums and libraries can reopen with occupancy up to 25 percent. Hands-on exhibits in museums are to remain closed. Museums do not have to reopen, but do have permission to do so
Churches and places of worship, kept open to an extent under the existing order, will be able to expand capacity even more. Abbott emphasized the importance of safe distancing practices to ensure church members remain protected.
Services provided by an individual working alone in an office; and local governmental operations relating to permitting, recordation, and document-filing services, as determined by local government, are also within the scope of reopenings authorized in the April 27 Governor’s Executive Order 18.
Before another stage is authorized, test tracking will be conducted and analyzed, with more testing sites and tests to be available. Among the data to be considered will be hospitalization rates, new cases, whether the numbers or flat and the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 during the first couple of weeks in May.
Outdoor sports will once again be allowed in Phase 1. However, they can involve no more than 4 participants at any 1 time, so long as distancing practices follow. Abbott used golf and tennis as examples. If COVID-19 remains contained in Phase I, that number will be expanded in Phase II expand to allow more sporting activities.
Nurses, doctors and dentist in the first phase will be able to get back to work. All licensed health care professionals allowed to return to work with a few capacity guidelines.
Hospitals will be required to reserve 15 percent capacity for COVID-19 patients.
Essential services will continue to operate as they have been doing in Phase I.
Abbott acknowledged that Texas is a big state with a diverse geography, and not all counties are affected the same by COVID-19. even in low population counties COVID-19 can spread rapidly.
Abbot noted that counties with 5 or fewer COVID-19 patients — about half the state — could potentially be allowed to increase their capacity in facilities to 50 percent, provided they comply with the safety standards outlined by doctors. For specifics, refer to the manual available at gov.texas.gov/opentexas.
If an area or the state has a sudden huge rise or significant outbreak of COVID-19, then those areas or the state would revert back to more limited capacity.
“Some businesses want to open. Texans want them to open, but. it’s not safe enough to open them all at this time. Barber shops, hair salons, bars and gyms are to remain closed. We are working to open business as soon as possible. We hope to open them on or no later than mid May,” Abbott said.
Because they require such close contact and proximity, it’s very difficult to open those at this time, the Governor noted, but plans are being explored to allow those businesses to open soon as well.
The most important element to re-opening business is to continue to protect the most vulnerable populations, especially the elderly. Seventy-five percent of deaths are peple 65 and older.
“If we redouble our efforts to protect our most vulnerable citizens, we can reduce deaths while expanding the workforce and the number reentering the workforce,” the Governor said.
Abbott said re-opening businesses safely will depending on Texans’ commitment to continue safe distancing practices to reduce the potential spread COVID-19.
Visitation is still restricted at nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities, which are to follow the infection control policies set by Texas Health and Human Services Commission. That includes minimizing the movement of staff between facilities when possible, according to Executive Order 18.
Schools will remain closed to in-person student classroom attendance through the end of the 2019-20 school year, per the CDC and President’s guidelines.