By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer
In a press conference held on Monday, Governor Greg Abbott said that the current stay-at-home order in Texas will expire at midnight on Friday, April 30 before entering phase one of a three-phase reopening process that will supersede all local orders.
“It’s time to set a new course,” Abbott said. “A course that responsibly opens up business in Texas. We will open in a way that uses safe standards.”
Abbott said these standards are based upon data and specialists.
While he said that not everything is able to open at one time, he identified retail stores, restaurants, malls and movie theaters as businesses that will be open on May 1st, with 25% of their normal capacity.
“This is a proven business strategy,” Abbott said. “It’s exactly the type of practice successfully used by H-E-B and Home Depot.”
However, he said he emphasized that vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions must still remain at home if possible.
“Public swimming pools, bars, gyms, cosmetology salons, massage establishments, interactive amusement venues, such as bowling alleys and video arcades, and tattoo and piercing studios will remain closed through Phase 1,” Abbott said.
He also stated that nursing homes, living centers and assisted living facilities must remain closed to visitors unless there is a need for critical assistance.
He then said that if two weeks pass and data shows that the number of cases in Texas has decreased, phase two can begin on May 18 and increase occupancy levels of these businesses to 50%.
He aims to re-open businesses such as gyms, bars and salons by mid-May.
In addition, museums and libraries can open under these restrictions as well but hands-on exhibits must remain closed and outdoor sports, such as golf and tennis, can return as long as there are only four participants involved and they remain under social distancing guidelines.
In reference to counties in Texas with five or less cases of COVID-19, Abbott said that they can increase by 50% capacity instead of 25%.
Licensed physicians are also able to return to work with restrictions and a hospital bed availability of 50%.
The Texas Department of State Health Services will be giving health protocols to businesses and a guide called “Open Texas” gives an overview of safe operations for businesses and customers.
“Today’s announcement is not the end of the work,” Abbott said. “We go to work this afternoon on working on solutions for more businesses to open.”