by Lilian Kyle
GOVERNOR ABBOTT PRESS CONFERENCE APRIL 17, 2020
Last Friday, Governor Abbott held a press conference where he revealed his plans to reopen the Texas economy. Abbott warned on Monday that the reopening would be a “slow process” guided by public health concerns. The press conference comes one day after President Trump outlined his three-phase economic plan to help guide U.S. governors in reopening their state. The president assured that governors could move through the phases at any speed they felt appropriate. Phase one includes strict social distancing, no gatherings of 10 or more people, discouraged nonessential travel and continued telework, if possible. During phase two, nonessential travel can resume, schools, and organized youth activities will reopen, bars, gyms, and churches will reopen with social distancing, and elective surgeries can resume. Finally, if there is still no spark in COVID-19 cases, phase three can begin. Phase three will allow bars, gyms, and large venues to reopen with limited distancing and allow visits to senior care facilities and hospitals to resume.
Mayor Steve Adler expressed his concern with reopening the state too soon and causing unnecessary deaths before the press conference. Governor Abbott, however, believes that economic damage has affected and damaged more Texan’s lives than COVID-19. Abbott also added that the worst of COVID-19 was over, and that there were enough ventilators in hospitals, and that hospitalizations in general, had leveled-off.
During the press conference, Abbott announced that he had formed a statewide strike force to comprehensively test and track COVID-19. The strike force, made up of medical officials and advisors, will give recommendations to the governor on how to reopen Texas and allow Texans to gradually return back to their lives until an immunization is made. The executive orders announced in Abbott’s press conference today were a direct result of the team’s first meeting and recommendations Abbott stated.
The first phase in Abbott’s plan begins today with the reopening of various activities that should pose minimal or no threats. Additional openings will be announced on April 27th after further input has been given from the advisors and the medical staff on his strike force. In May, further announcements will be made when it is determined that the rate of infection has continued to decline and that there is sufficient room in hospitals.
The first executive order Abbott made today authorized his strike force to reopen Texas. They will determine the practices and rules businesses must follow as they re-open. The second executive order allows for doctors and nurses that perform various non-essential surgeries to return to work. This means that on April 22nd, the current restrictions on surgeries will become much looser. Abbott also ordered enhanced restrictions for senior living centers, including minimizing the staff that travels between centers. All retail stores will also be allowed to operate starting April 24th, as “retail to-go” stores. Additionally, Abbott ordered the reopening of all state parks starting this Monday as long as visitors wear face masks. Finally, Abbott ordered that all school classrooms remained closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. TEA Commissioner, Mike Morath, is supposed to provide more guidance on how to operate with the new executive order in the coming week.
Governor Abbott will announce additional waves to reopen Texas on Monday, April 27th, including comprehensive testing and ensured hospital readiness for COVID-19 patients. Revised plans in accordance with the strike forces’ recommendations will also be announced, including the possible re-opening of restaurants and movie theaters.