AUSTIN, Texas -- As pushback against stay-at-home orders by way of public protests increases across the nation, including here in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott Friday laid out plans for reopening the Texas economy, and some of the steps will be in effect soon.

Of note, schools are not immediately part of those plans. Abbott ordered Texas public and private schools as well as higher education institutions to remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. Teachers, however, will be permitted to enter schools in order to conduct lessons via video and for administrative purposes.

Abbott said he has formed the statewide Strike Force to Reopen Texas. The team is comprised of medical experts as well as private and public leaders and is tasked with providing best practices for reopening based on medical data. 

"Texans are battling a colossal challenge - an invisible enemy that has tested our lives and our livelihoods - but overcoming challenges is part of who we are as Texans," said Abbott. "We have shown that Texas can continue our efforts to contain COVID-19 while also adopting safe standards that will allow us to begin the process of reopening Texas.”

Texas will begin reopening in stages, Abbott said, with those businesses that can successfully maintain social distancing practices to be the first to reopen. The governor further said decisions about reopening the economy will be based on data and advice from doctors. Specifically, comprehensive COVID-19 testing and tracing will play a role.

Beginning Monday, April 20, state parks will be reopened. However, visitors will be required to wear facial coverings and must maintain a distance of six feet from people with whom they do not share a home. People visiting state parks may not gather in groups that exceed five. 

Beginning on April 22, restrictions on surgeries will be loosened. Doctors will be permitted to diagnose and treat conditions other than COVID-19, including cancer. Abbott indicated abortions are currently not part of the order.

Starting Friday, April 24, all retail establishments will be permitted to reopen so long as they can provide to-go services.

Abbott said additional openings will be announced on April 27, followed by more in May. These will be contingent upon the infection rate declining, however, and evidence that hospitals can continue to accommodate the infected. Businesses that could be reopened by May include restaurants and movie theaters.

"If the data continues to show a flat-lining and then a decline of the number of people testing positive, that is a signal that we can begin the process of opening up some businesses that adhere to the strictest strategies that will reduce the spread of the coronavirus," Gov. Abbott said.

What could delay that broader re-opening is the availability of testing. Currently only about 0.6 percent of the state's population has been tested. Abbott is promising more is on the way.

Democrats have cited the state’s low testing level in arguing Texas is not ready to reopen.

“I have not seen a number and that’s one of the things we want to hear from the governor’s office. What is the number that we need that gives us the capacity and gives us the penetration that reveals to us what the trends really are,” said. Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who’s also a registered nurse. “In order to safely open up businesses we have to have that information, because that’s what’s going to guide the policy decisions, and even the governor said that himself.”

Abbott said that although the number of deaths related to COVID-19 is too high, it has not been as bad as projected.

Click the video link above to hear more about the governor’s plan and our full interview with Rep. Howard.