Abbott Outlines Plans to Reopen Texas
by Lillian Kyle
Gov. Abbott Press Conference April 27
Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference on Monday, April 27th detailing his plan to reopen Texas following advice given by his team of medical experts and public leaders. At his April 17th press conference, he issued an executive order creating a Strike Force to manage the process of beginning to reopening Texas. They have since given the governor advice on how to allow Texans to return to their lives safely and gradually while still prioritizing the health of their fellow Texans.
The first update the governor gave on the reopening of Texas was concerning his stay at home order that is set to expire on April 30th. The governor said that his order will, in fact, expire on Thursday and will not be extended. However, the reopening of Texas will be in gradual phases. The first steps are outlined in Executive Order GA-18. The governor emphasized that not all businesses will be able to reopen at once. The goal, he said, is to not have to close again after reopening. Based on the advice of his Strike Force, this Friday, on May 1, the first phase will begin of specific businesses opening. If during that time period, the spread of COVID-19 is contained, the second phase will begin on May 18th at the earliest. Phase two will allow more businesses to reopen and allow the business that opened in the first phase to expand their operations.
During phase one, those aged 65 and older and those most vulnerable to the virus, are still advised to stay at home if they can. The businesses able to open on May 1st with limited operations include all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and malls. To limit the spread of COVID-19 during phase one, on the advice given by medical experts, the occupancy of all businesses is limited to 25%. If phase one works, then phase two will increase that occupancy rate to 50%. Further increases will come if COVID-19 remains contained. If a business does not want to reopen there is no requirement to do so.
Additionally, all museums and libraries will be able to open under the same 25% capacity rate on May 1st. Sole practitioners will also be allowed to go back to work. Outside sports can resume if no more than 4 players are involved at one time, such as golfing and tennis. More sporting activities will come in phase two. All licensed healthcare professionals are also allowed to return to work with few restrictions. However, hospitals must continue to reserve 15% of their capacity for COVID-19 patients. Different standards will apply for those counties that have had 5 or fewer COVID-19 cases, such as a 50% occupancy rate for businesses rather than 25%. If there is an outbreak in one of those counties, they will revert back to a more limited capacity.
There are some businesses that Governor Abbott said he wanted to reopen but based on the advice of his medical team, he decided to wait until it was safe for them to resume. Those businesses include barbershops, bars, and gyms. Governor Abbott hopes to open these businesses by the middle of May if COVID-19 is still contained. Licensed childcare will also remain closed for Texan families. However, it is set to expand for essential workers across the state. Summer camps are also among the list of businesses that the governor is hesitant on reopening and will continue to monitor.
Additionally, Governor Abbott created an effective Tracing Program to track cases of COVID-19. Phase two of the program starts today where he will add 1,000 Contract Tracers and deploy a Statewide COVID-19 Tracking Call Center. The Tracing Program’s task is to test those who may be affected, isolate them, contact all of whom may have been in contact with the affected, and then instruct those in contact to self-isolate for 14-days. Social distancing is still enforced in Texas while masks will not be enforced but encouraged. Complete details on the plan to reopen Texas can be found in The Governor’s Report to Open Texas.