Texas reopening guide: Everything you need to know as state begins phase 1 of reopening today

Is it safe to eat at a restaurant?

HOUSTON – After weeks of staying home to slow the spread of coronavirus, the stay-home order issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ended Thursday night.

The order officially ended at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, but it doesn’t mean that all of your favorite places will be opening up right away.

Here’s a closer look at what it means for you.

Restaurants and retail can reopen

Restaurants and retail stores are allowed to reopen starting Friday, but with a reduced occupancy of 25%. That will likely mean you’ll have to wait in some lines or make some reservations if you’re out and about this weekend.

The state issued some minimum health protocols for people who plan on dining in at a restaurant or go shopping at a retail store during Phase 1.

Abbott said his order gives these business owners permission to reopen, but they’re not required to do so.

Libraries and museums can reopen

Both libraries and museums can reopen on Friday, but also with a reduced occupancy of 25%. Interactive exhibits must be closed, however.

Movie theaters can reopen but won’t

While Abbott’s order allows movie theaters to reopen, all the big movie theater chains, including AMC Theaters, Cinemark and Regal are choosing not to reopen this week. Studio Movie Grill said it hopes to “welcome guests back soon” but won’t open Friday.

Bars, gyms, salons are still closed

Abbott said that health officials do not believe it is safe to reopen bars, gyms and hair and salons at this time. He said that could change by mid-May.

This has been a point of contention since the governor’s announcement. Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough has said Abbott’s order is not clear enough to enforce, so he won’t be preventing these types of businesses from reopening unless he receives some clarification from the governor.

Thursday evening, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion doubling down on the governor’s order, saying it was clear that bars, salons, gyms and other businesses must stay closed during Phase 1 and that it was up to local governments to enforce.

Churches, places of worship can increase occupancy

While the governor never closed religious establishments, he said his order issued Monday allows such places to increase the number of people allowed to gather.

While churches and religious institutions have the permission to begin reopening, many places of worship in the Houston area said Wednesday that they did not have plans to reopen immediately. Here’s a list of local places of worship and what they have planned.

Maintain social distancing but masks optional

Even though some places are reopening, Abbott has said people should maintain social distancing guidelines.

“We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask; however, it’s not a mandate,” Abbott said.

Louisiana-Texas travel restrictions lifted

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.

You can go to the beach

Galveston County’s 32 miles of beaches will be reopened to the public Friday along with restaurants and retailers, as part of the first phase of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas. Earlier this week, Galveston partially reopened beaches with some restrictions but come Friday, those restrictions will be lifted.

However, officials continue to ask people to maintain social distancing and encourage wearing masks or face coverings if you’re within six feet of other people.

Phase 2 aimed to begin May 18

Abbott said he is aiming for May 18 as the target date for the start of the second phase of his reopening Texas plan.

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.

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About the Authors:

Aaron Barker has been a senior digital editor at KPRC 2 since 2016. As a meteorologist, he specializes in stories about the weather. He has covered Hurricane Harvey, the Astros first World Series win, the Santa Fe High School shooting, the ITC fire and Tropical Storm Imelda.