Texas back in business this week
April 29, 2020
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his statewide stay-at-home order on coronavirus will expire on Thursday as scheduled, while Texas malls, stores, movie theaters and restaurants may open the next day — with 25% occupancy.
Barber shops, hair salons, gyms, massage establishments, tattoo parlors, video arcades and bowling alleys must wait until mid-May at the earliest to reopen, he said.
Outdoor sports such as golf and tennis may resume with no more than four participants in a match, and they must observe social distancing guidelines, he said.
Museums and public libraries may reopen, again with the 25% capacity limitation, though they’re not required to, Abbott said.
The Republican governor “strongly” recommended that Texans wear masks while in public. However, he said local requirements imposed by Democratic-controlled commissioners courts in Dallas and Harris counties — as well as elsewhere — are superseded by his new orders. No one can be fined by a locality for not wearing a facial covering, he said.
“Opening Texas must occur in phases,” Abbott said. “Obviously, not all businesses can open all at once. A more strategic approach is required to ensure that we don’t reopen only to have to close down again.”
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who has publicly sparred with Abbott throughout the crisis, said he had asked Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang and infectious disease and epidemiology specialists, from area hospitals to review Abbott’s orders. He said that he would work with local businesses to develop rules to help enforce social distancing including the 25% capacity limit for the businesses that will reopen on Friday.
Jenkins said it was incumbent upon residents to use their best judgment as Texas enters the next phase of the fight against the coronavirus.
“Most other plans that open businesses in phases don’t put places like movie theaters in the first group to open,” he said in the statement. “The orders have changed but the science that will keep us safe has not. I believe North Texans will focus not on ‘what can they do’ but rather ‘what should they do.’ It will be imperative for North Texans to make good choices particularly where these orders veer from the advice of public health experts. Following science is the best way to keep safe and open the economy.”
Meanwhile, Abbott’s move drew praise from Texas’ leading business associations, though health officials were less fulsome.
Dr. Mark Casanova, president of the Dallas County Medical Society, had not completely reviewed Abbott’s plan. However, he said, based on reports he had seen, it could “theoretically” work. “The key is going to be testing capacity,” he said.
Some Democrats said he’s jeopardizing recent gains by moving more aggressively than is warranted, considering the state’s limited ability to conduct COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
And it remains to be seen how many restaurants will reopen, or how many patrons they will attract.
Abbott said loosening restrictions he imposed in recent weeks to halt the spread of the lethal virus is the reward for impressive compliance by Texans with his requests for self-isolation and social distancing.
“The price has been steep,” as many Texans lost jobs and can’t pay their bills, he said.
While he’ll continue to stress social distancing and rely on doctors for advice, Abbott said he’ll keep tight protections of “the most vulnerable,” such as nursing-home residents, while letting many others exercise more discretion as to what is safe in the age of COVID-19.
For instance, he lifted most restrictions on doctors, dentists, nurses and other health care professionals, saying they need to get to work, though they must follow the COVID-19 protocols recommended by their licensure boards. Hospitals must reserve 15% of their capacity for coronavirus cases.
Abbott lifted 14-day quarantine orders on air travelers from New York and other COVID hotspots, and on-road travelers from Louisiana.