HOUSTON – Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas was going to move into the first phase of reopening starting Friday, May 1. Some Texas businesses, museums and libraries are included in this order but understandably, there are some questions about what’s next.
Here are the major things to know from Abbott’s Monday announcement:
Will I get fined if I don’t wear a mask in public?
Last week, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced that starting Monday, all Harris County residents would be required to wear a mask in public for 30 days. Failure to comply with this order would result in the possibility of a $1,000 fine. Hidalgo’s order was met with harsh criticism from local officials and residents.
In his press conference Monday, Abbott said that his executive order would supersede any orders issued at the local level. He said this would include any orders about fines imposed for not wearing a face mask or facial covering.
“We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask; however, it’s not a mandate,” Abbott said.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick echoed this sentiment.
“Wear a mask, that’s our suggestion. Not going to mandate it,” Patrick said.
In response to Abbott’s press conference, Hidalgo said was disappointed “to see folks politicize public health,” and that she would amend her order to conform with Abbott’s executive order.
Do I have to wear a mask to the grocery store?
Businesses reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who doesn’t wear a mask. However, after Abbott made his announcement Monday, officials with H-E-B and Kroger said that while they encourage and recommend that people wear masks or face coverings while in the stores, it will only be required for their employees. Read more here.
When will barbershops, salons, bars and gyms reopen?
While many were hoping barbershops, hair salons, bars and gyms would reopen, Abbott said that health officials advised against it as people would be in close proximity to each other in these places.
Abbott said that he aimed for Phase 2 of the reopening to begin on May 18.
Abbott hopes that in Phase 2, Texas will be able to reopen barber shops, hair and nail salons, bars and gyms.
Which businesses are reopening Friday?
After his “stay home” executive order expires on April 30, some Texas businesses can begin reopening on Friday, May 1.
Here’s a list:
- All retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls can open provided they maintain no more than 25% occupancy
- All museums and libraries can reopen at 25% occupancy but interactive exhibits must remain closed
- Sole proprietors can safely return to work
- Churches and places of worship, while allowed to stay open through this time, will be allowed to expand occupancy starting May 1
- Outdoor sports will be allowed to resume so long as no more than four participants are playing together at one time
- All licensed health care professionals can return to work
- All hospitals must reserve 15% capacity for coronavirus patients
Which movie theaters will reopen on Friday?
None. All the big movie theater chains are choosing not to reopen this week. KPRC 2 reached out to the three biggest chains to see what their plans are:
- AMC Theaters said it will not reopen until there are new movie premiers.
- Cinemark said it’s next release is slated for late July and the company is working towards a mid-summer reopening date.
- Regal said it has not made a decision about when it will reopen.
- Studio Movie Grill said its theaters won’t open Friday but hopes to “welcome guests back soon.”
- Alamo Drafthouse said on Twitter it will not reopen Texas theaters this weekend. “Opening safely is a very complex project that involves countless new procedures and equipment, all of which require extensive training, This is something we cannot and will not do casually or quickly,” the group wrote.
Do I have to self-quarantine if I travel from Louisiana to Texas?
As part of his Executive Order signed Monday, Abbott is lifting the travel restrictions for people coming to Texas from Louisiana.
As of Friday, people who are coming to Texas from Louisiana or New Orleans will no longer need to self-quarantine. If you are in quarantine currently because of travel to Louisiana, your quarantine will be terminated as of Friday.
People traveling from New York, Chicago, Detroit and other places will still need to self-quarantine for 14 days after coming to Texas.
What are the rules for churches looking to expand occupancy?
Churches and other places of worship can expand occupancy as Texas begins a phased reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Abbott said that while religious institutions were allowed to stay open through the stay home order that expires Thursday, they will be allowed to expand occupancy while maintaining social distancing and hygiene standards beginning Friday.
On Abbott’s “Reopening Texas” website, he clarified the rules for churches looking to expand occupancy starting May 1.
Here are the following health protocols for church attendees:
- Strongly encourage the at-risk population to watch or participate in the service remotely
- Designate an area inside the facility reserved for the at-risk population, or offer a service for at-risk population attendees only
- Keep at least two empty seats (or six feet separation) between parties in any row, except for two or more members of the same household who can sit next to one another, with two seats (or six feet separation) empty on either side.
- Two people who are not members of the same household but who are attending together can sit adjacent to one another, with two seats (or six feet separation) empty on either side
- Alternate rows between attendees (every other row left empty)