“We are Texans. We’ve got this.”
In a press conference this afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott announced a new executive order phasing in a plan for business in Texas to resume. The Governor stressed the phasing-in approach was a result of advice by health care experts to contain the spread of the virus while allowing the state’s economy to recover.
Phase 1: Retail Stores, Movie Theaters, Restaurants and Malls
In phase 1, which begins on May 1, retail stores, movie theaters, restaurants and malls will be allowed to reopen at no more than 25% of their rated occupancy. The governor stressed that progress to phase 2 can only occur if the public maintains sensible social distancing practices, and the virus does not show an increase in infection over the next few weeks.
If there is no flare up in infection rate, phase 2 would be allowed to expand occupancy to 50%. Museums and libraries would be allowed to reopen at a 25% occupancy rate, as long as there are no hands-on types of exhibits. If all goes well, we could expect transition to phase 2 as soon as mid-May.
Opening Allowed, Not Required
The governor stressed that “allowed” does not mean “required.” Businesses that choose to remain closed can do so as long as they want. Sole proprietors who do not conduct face-to-face contact with the public can do business as usual now. Churches can expand their capacity starting with phase 1, but are encouraged to adhere to sensible social distancing practices.
In phase 1, outdoor sports will be allowed if they consist of four participants or less. Sports such as golf and tennis fall into this category. Phase 2 will allow a reasonable increase.
Doctors, nurses and dentists can return to work with fewer restrictions. Hospitals must continue to reserve 15% of capacity for COVID-19 patients.
Businesses Not Included
Barber shops, hair salons, bars and gyms are not considered safe enough to open at present. Officials are working toward a mid-May time frame for opening, depending on virus containment status at that time.
A lot depends on the implementation of an effective testing and tracing process. The goal is to have 25 thousand tests a day.
Governor Abbott stressed that safely opening Texas for business requires a commitment to social distancing to prevent spread of the disease. We rely on medical professionals to provide the safest strategies. We must also focus on protecting the most vulnerable in the population, as they can provide potent vectors for spread of the contagion. He ended with a reminder that it is the entrepreneurs who drive the Texas economy.
His closing comment: “We are Texans. We’ve got this.”