By Anita Miller
Gov. Gregg Abbott’s stay at home order “will be allowed” to expire on Thursday and, on Friday, restaurants and retail outlets have the green light to reopen with restrictions. Barber shops, hair and nail salons and gyms will remain closed for the time being.
Abbott unveiled his plans Monday to reopen the Texas economy in phases, saying it’s time to get Texans back to work, but according to guidelines from “data and doctors.”
Abbott said he is proceeding despite “precautionary tales” of new outbreaks in China. “It’s hard to get rid of this virus because it is so contagious,” he said, adding that restrictions on reopening will be designed “to help businesses open while also containing the virus and keeping Texans safe.”
In addition to restaurants and retailers, movie theaters and malls are allowed to reopen May 1, but the governor said none are required to. Broadly speaking, occupancy would be at 25 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels. Abbott said, without elaborating, that other “proven business strategies” employed by H-E-B and Home Depot would be utilized.
Outdoor sports will also be allowed, “so long as it allows no more than four participants at any one time,” he said, mentioning golf and tennis. Dentists and doctors can also reopen their offices also with restrictions. Hospitals will be required to reserve 15 percent of their capacity for COVID-19 patients.
If the number of Texans hospitalized with the coronavirus doesn’t spike, Abbott said phase two of his plan could be put into action around May 18. That would allow reopening of museums and libraries at 25 percent occupancy (except for hands-on, interactive exhibits) and restaurants would be allowed to expand to 50 percent occupancy.
Counties with five or fewer confirmed cases of the virus would be exempt from most restrictions.
Abbott said he is “working with” barber shops and hair and nail salons to develop better business practices that would allow them to safely reopen. Regarding summer camps, he said he’s looking at safe ways kids will be able to attend.
“Safely opening Texas requires four things,” Abbott said. “One, a commitment to continue safe distancing; two, reliance on doctors and data; three, a focus on protecting our most vulnerable from exposure; and four, a reminder that it is entrepreneurs that drive the Texas economy. We are Texans. We got this.”