AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is taking an aggressive approach to restarting the state’s economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, he annonuced a two-phase plan that involves big changes set to begin on Thursday.
- Texas stay-at-home order to expire Thursday
- Many businesses will be permitted to reopen Friday with 25 percent capacity
- Anticipated more businesses will be able to reopen by mid-May
Beginning Thursday, Abbott said, the stay-at-home order will be allowed to expire. On Friday, which marks the beginning of Phase 1, many businesses will be permitted to reopen so long as they do so with capacity limited to 25 percent. Small, rural counties with fewer than five COVID-19 cases may reopen with capacity capped at 50 percent.
Those businesses that will be allowed to open May 1 include retail stores, malls, restaurants and movie theaters. Abbott said that no business owners who are uncomfortable opening that day will be forced to do so, however. Abbott said his order supersedes all local orders.
Also permitted to open Friday are museums and libraries. Hands-on displays must remain closed, though.
All licensed health care professions – doctors, nurses, dentists, etc. – may return to work Friday with few restrictions. Hospitals must devote 15 percent of capacity to COVID-19 patients.
Churches and places of worship were kept open under the existing executive order, but on May 1, they will be able to expand their capacity even more, Abbott said. He emphasized the importance of safe distancing practices to ensure the church members remain protected.
Outdoor sports will be permitted so long as they are limited to four participants. That might include golf and tennis.
Not being permitted to open Friday are hair salons, gyms and bars. Abbott said it’s anticipated they might be able to reopen in mid-May.
More announcements will be coming pertaining to Phase 2, which begins May 18. Abbott said that if Phase 1 works, Phase 2 will allow the aforementioned businesses to expand to 50 percent capacity.
Explaining his rationale for reopening businesses so quickly, Abbott stated he is confident businesses will put social distancing measures in place in order to safeguard Texans and that customers will seek out those businesses that are protecting them.
Abbott also said a contact tracing team is being assembled and that efforts to protect Texas' most vulnerable populations – those over age 65 – will continue.
Click the video link above to watch our interview with epidemiologist Dr. Cherise Rohr-Allegrini. She weighs in on the governor’s order and what it means for safely reopening the economy.