HOUSTON – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that he will allow his statewide “stay home” order to expire on April 30, and Phase 1 of reopening the Texas economy will begin on May 1.
Texas voters overwhelmingly approve of the widespread business closures and statewide stay-at-home order even though the economy is taking a catastrophic hit, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. The latest figures from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services show that as of Monday afternoon, there have been more than 25,000 coronavirus cases reported across the state with more than 660 deaths.
Abbott said coronavirus cases have been on the decline for the past 17 days in the state and the hospital capacity has remained steady. He also said Texas ranks third in the country for most coronavirus recoveries and the number of recoveries will soon exceed the number of positive cases.
Phase 1 (Beginning Friday)
As a result of these statistics, Abbott said that health officials gave him the go-ahead to begin a phased-in reopening of the state.
“We wanted to make sure we open up as quickly as possible but as safely as possible,” he said.
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
Abbott said that the reopening of these businesses was on a voluntary basis and business owners could choose whether to 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. He said he hoped these businesses could reopen by mid-May.
Abbott said that some other countries that had reopened after the pandemic had seen flare-ups of the virus. As a result, it was important not to reopen all businesses at once.
Abbott said that he aimed for Phase 2 of the reopening to begin on May 18. For that to happen, he said Texas needed to ensure there weren’t any new flare-ups of coronavirus in the time that Phase 1 was implemented.
“We want to usher in Phase 2 as soon as possible,” he said as he urged people to continue to follow social distancing guidelines through Phase 1.
Factors officials will consider before beginning Phase 2 will include hospitalization rates, coronavirus death rates, and if there are hot spots in different parts of the state. Abbott hopes that in Phase 2, Texas will be able to reopen barber shops, hair and nail salons, bars and gyms.
He also said that Phase 2 could be rolled out on a county-by-county basis.
“If there is an outbreak of COVID-19, it could cause a county to revert back to a more limited capacity,” he said.
Masks: Local vs. state
Many in Texas believe it might be too soon to reopen the state amid the coronavirus pandemic. In response, Abbott said he would not have made the decision without the advice of health officials.
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 issued the following statement to KPRC 2:
“Harris County is the epicenter for the Covid-19 crisis in Texas and face coverings are one of the only weapons we have to stop the spread of the virus and reopen safely. We have a face covering order today and we’ll still have a face covering order tomorrow. In practical terms, the governor’s order doesn’t change much because, like every order we’ve issued so far, we’d made it clear that the priority was education. The fine was there as a signal of how vital mask wearing is, and in many ways, the community got that message. It’s been disappointing to see folks politicize public health, and I hope this means they’ll go back to focusing on health and safety instead of politics. As we have in the past, we will amend this order to conform with the governor’s,” she wrote.
Read the full executive order below:
Exclusive: KPRC 2′s Kris Guttierez interviews Gov. Greg Abbott Monday following announcement:
WATCH FULL PRESS CONFERENCE BELOW:
WATCH LIVE: Gov. Greg Abbott explains what's next for reopening Texas economy LIVE BLOG: https://www.click2houston.com/news/texas/2020/04/22/gov-greg-abbott-promises-far-reaching-announcement-on-reopening-texas-businesses-including-restaurants-hair-salons/Posted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Monday, April 27, 2020
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