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Phase 1 of reopening Texas begins Friday, governor says

Gov. Greg Abbott said he will not extend his executive order for Texans to stay at home. The current order expires April 30.

This is a breaking news story and will be continuously updated. 

Gov. Greg Abbott will let the statewide stay-at-home order expire Thursday, paving the way for the first phase of reopening measures. 

Retail stores, restaurants, theaters and malls can reopen Friday with limited occupancy, Abbott said Monday afternoon. 

He said museums and libraries can also reopen as long as interactive areas stay closed. 

Businesses will be limited to 25% occupancy, the governor said. That occupancy rate can be criminally enforced or the business could lose its operating license for violating the order. 

After a two-week period, if there is no spike in cases of the novel coronavirus, other businesses can begin to open, Abbott said. 

If COVID-19 doesn't spread, retail stores and other businesses can increase occupancy to 50%. That could happen as soon as May 18. 

The governor said no business is required to reopen. 

"Again this is permission to open, not a requirement," Abbott said. 

Abbott already loosened some restrictions last week, including allowing some elective medical procedures to resume and the opening of retail businesses for to-go or curbside services.

Social distancing, masks encouraged

Abbott said people need to continue practicing social distancing. 

"Now more than ever, Texans must continue safe distancing practices," the governor said. 

He said the goal is to keep the number of hospitalized cases of COVID-19 flat. As part of the reopening measures, hospitals must reserve 15% of their capacity for coronavirus patients.

RELATED: Live COVID-19 updates: Gov. Greg Abbott to announce plans to reopen Texas

Texas leaders also encourage everyone to wear masks or facial coverings but stopped short of requiring the measure. Abbott said no local government can fine or penalize people for not wearing a mask. 

Dallas County officials have required the use of masks whenever people go to stores, but there is no fine or punishment for those who don't. Harris County has also adopted similar requirements and has implemented fines. 

Abbott said his statewide executive order supersedes any local orders. 

No salons, barbershops

Some businesses must remain closed, including barbershops, salons, gyms and bars. 

The governor said medical experts advised that it's not safe for those to open yet but he hopes they can reopen mid-May. 

Abbott said he and other elected officials sought medical advice before writing the reopening plan. He said the plan was also reviewed by Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

"We would not be making a decision to open up Texas without that medical advice," he said. 

State leaders are still working to determine when other businesses and organizations can reopen, including summer camps for kids. 

The governor already said schools must remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, but he said Monday that summer camps could open. 

Expanded COVID-19 testing

As part of the reopening process, Abbott said it's important to track and trace cases of COVID-19. 

As part of the first phase of reopening, more than 1,100 contract tracers will track how cases of the coronavirus have spread. Those tracers will contact people who have been diagnosed with the disease to see who all they came in contact with. 

Those who have the novel coronavirus should isolate, Abbott said.

Another 1,000 contact tracers will be added over the next two weeks, the governor said. 

He also said the state will have the capability to test as many as 25,000 people a day by the middle of May. 

Due to the expanded testing, Abbott said he expects to see case numbers continue to climb. But, he said, that will be attributed to additional testing. 

If hospitalizations due to the coronavirus spike, reopening might be slowed, Abbott said. 

Phase one

Restaurants, retail shops, malls, movie theaters, libraries and museums can all open at 25% occupancy. 

Churches can also remain open, but social distancing is encouraged. 

Outdoor sports can be played as long as it's limited to four participants and adheres to proper social distancing. Abbott pointed to golf and tennis as examples. 

Licensed health care officials can return to work. 

Full plan to reopen Texas:

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