Gov. Greg Abbott announced that some Texas businesses will be allowed to reopen May 1 with restrictions.

Abbott and members of his Strike Force to Open Texas discussed plans to restart the Texas economy during an April 27 televised briefing. The governor announced the expiration of his stay-at-home order Thursday and the first phase of the state’s new plan permitting “all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and malls” to reopen Friday. In March, the governor issued directives closing non-essential retail businesses and restricting restaurants to take-out service to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Phase 1 of the new plan restricts the number of people allowed inside establishments to a maximum 25 percent of listed occupancy. However, in rural counties with fewer than five cases of COVID-19, businesses and restaurants can increase occupancy up to 50 percent of capacity, as long as the county in which they operate meets criteria outlined in the plan.

Texas Health and Human Services maintains a webpage with current, county-by-county COVID-19 numbers.

The governor also talked about increased statewide COVID-19 testing and the development of a tracing program by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The detailed report can be found on the Strike Force webpage.

Abbott included special guidance regarding the most vulnerable populations, especially Texans over 65 and those in nursing and assisted-living facilities.

“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,” the governor stated in a media release. “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 with 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.”

During the April 27 briefing, Abbott said he and his Strike Force would look at the number of COVID-19 cases as well as other data to determine whether to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2, which could happen sometime in mid-May.

He pointed out that with increased testing comes the possibility of more cases.

Guided by medical experts, he and Strike Force members also will look at COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates.

Also at the briefing, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pointed out that businesses need to do their part to help customers feel safe.

“This will be a team effort between customers and businesses,” he said.

While the state is not requiring that people wear masks out in public, Patrick said Texans are encouraged to do so. The practice is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Phase 1 reopening also includes museums and libraries with the same 25 percent occupancy limitation. However, interactive and hands-on areas at these facilities must remain closed.

The governor cleared the way for state-run libraries and museums to reopen on Friday but is allowing private and local government-run facilities to make that decision.

The April 27 directive also allows churches and places of worship to remain open following state government guidance and protocols.

Other businesses and facilities not mentioned in Phase 1 reopening will have to wait. These include public swimming pools, bars, gyms, hair and nail salons, barbershops, massage parlors, interactive amusement venues such as bowling alleys and video arcades, and tattoo and piercing studios. If the state continues on its road to recovery, Abbott could allow these businesses to reopen later in May.

For the complete 64-page report, visit the Strike Force to Open Texas webpage.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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