AUSTIN, Texas — On Monday, April 27, Gov. Greg Abbott discussed more on his plan to reopen more businesses in Texas safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the press conference, the governor announced the stay-at-home executive order will expire on April 30 and will not be renewed at this time. Gov. Abbott also announced the opening of several types of businesses that will be able to re-open on May 1.
Gov. Abbott said the next step is to safely open up as many businesses as possible. He said it is not possible to reopen everything all at once in order to prevent a second, stronger wave of the virus.
"This strategic approach to opening the state of Texas prioritizes the health and safety of our communities and follows the guidelines laid out by our team of medical experts," said Gov. Abbott. "Now more than ever, Texans must remain committed to safe distancing practices that reduce the spread of COVID-19, and we must continue to rely on doctors and data to provide us with the safest strategies to restore Texans' livelihoods. We must also focus on protecting the most vulnerable Texans from exposure to COVID-19. If we remain focused on protecting the lives of our fellow Texans, we can continue to open the Lone Star State."
Gov. Abbott said measures will be put into place that will help open Texas while containing the virus.
Phase one of the re-opening of Texas businesses is scheduled to begin May 1, and Gov. Abbott said if the virus remains contained, phase two could begin by May 18.
Gov. Abbott said phase two will allow even more businesses to reopen and expand the capabilities of phase one businesses.
Before phase two begins, Gov. Abbott said there must be two weeks of data showing that the virus is continuing to be contained.
Gov. Abbott said phase one emphasizes the protection of vulnerable populations and aims to allow them to stay at home.
Gov. Abbott announced that all retail stores, restaurants, movies and malls will be able to reopen on May 1, but will be required to maintain only up to 25% occupancy. Additionally, museums and libraries will be able to reopen, given they follow the 25% occupancy rules and do not reopen interactive features.
Gov. Abbott emphasized that this only allows businesses to reopen, not requires them to.
Additionally, Gov. Abbott has allowed outdoor sports like golf and tennis to return as long as there are only four participants that are maintaining social distancing.
Gov. Abbott also allowed all licensed physicians to return to work with limited restrictions.
Gov. Abbott announced a different standard would apply to counties with five or fewer cases of COVID-19. These counties must comply with safety standards outlined by doctors, but can increase capacity in businesses to 50% compared to 25%.
If an outbreak occurs in these counties, it could cause them to revert to a more restricted capacity.
Gov. Abbott said he hopes to open businesses like gyms, bars and restaurants by mid-May.
Regarding childcare, Gov. Abbott said the goal is to expand services as much as safely possible.
Additionally, Gov. Abbott outlined three phases for the state's COVID-19 tracing. Phase one, which has already been completed, mobilized 1,157 state and local contact tracers. Phase two, starting on April 27, will add an additional 1,000 contact tracers and phase three, starting May 11, aims to build a team of 4,000 contact tracers.
These contact tracers test those who may be affected, help isolate those who test positive and contact those who have been in contact with those people, effectively boxing in the virus, according to Gov. Abbott.
The full plan to re-open Texas can be found in a report released by the governor, which can be read below:
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt released the following statement regarding Gov. Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas:
“Today, Governor Abbott articulated a plan for reopening businesses statewide, but did not produce a plan for reducing cases of Covid-19. I agree that business should reopen, but only in a measured manner guided by science. As County Judges, we are the agents of the state tasked with executing local plans that balance the interdependent health impacts and economic impacts of Covid-19. Travis County has more knowledge of infection and how it spreads in our community than most other communities in the State. We are better prepared to set standards of care in a phased and measured opening of businesses locally. Governor Abbott has only set an expectation of calendared reopening. I look forward to working with him to set clear expectations for a measurable advance in health and economic recovery from Covid-19, whether or not it meets his calendar.”
Austin-based fashion designer Kendra Scott issued the following statement:
“Governor Abbott’s phased approach is a thoughtful way to reopen state businesses, a crucial step to getting Texas back on its feet. The governor’s plan is intended to be a guideline for all businesses, not a mandate, and every business needs to make the individual decision based on the safety of their employees and customers. The most important factor to the Governor’s plan is that we take this slow and steady, all while maintaining the CDC’s health and safety practices for the benefit of our community. Right now each one of us can contribute to the goal of a safe reopening, by keeping the care and consideration for our fellow Texans as our top priority. We are all looking forward to the day we can be together again. To get there, we must be smart, and be patient.“
Gov. Abbott announced on April 17 a phased plan to gradually reopen Texas businesses. This plan kicked off on Monday, April 20, and allowed some businesses that pose little to no threat of spreading COVID-19 to reopen in stages. On Friday, April 24, all stores in Texas were able to operate "retail-to-go."
On April 27, Gov. Abbott also relaxed certain restrictions related to health care professionals and issued amended requirements related to hospital capacity. Under an Executive Order (GA-19) issued April 27:
- All licensed health care professionals shall be limited in their practice by, and must comply with, any emergency rules promulgated by their respective licensing agencies dictating minimum standards for safe practice during the COVID-19 disaster.
- Every hospital licensed under Chapter 241 of the Texas Health & Safety Code shall reserve at least 15% of its hospital capacity for treatment of COVID-19 patients, accounting for the range of clinical severity of COVID-19 patients, as determined by HHSC.
Additionally, the Governor issued an Executive Order (GA-20) to eliminate the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for individuals traveling from Louisiana. Under GA-20, the mandated 14-day quarantine for travelers from the following areas remains in place: California; Connecticut; New York; New Jersey; Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan, and Miami, Florida.
As of Monday, April, 27, there are more than 1,400 positive COVID-19 cases in the Austin area. KVUE is tracking how many people have tested positive for the virus in Central Texas. To find out how many cases are in your county, go here.
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