Texas on April 17 became the first state with set dates to lift certain COVID-19 restrictions, with Abbott announcing three executive orders to safely restore more jobs. The orders established a task force to reopen the state, allowed all retailers to offer to-go services as of April 24 and lifted restrictions on nonessential surgeries as well as park operations.
Mitchell said based on what he knows about how area medical centers are operating, he supports the decision to begin allowing nonessential surgeries. Health centers The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have begun sending doctors and nurses home, and local hospitals are no longer filled to capacity, he added.
“People have common sense; they know how serious this is now,” Mitchell said shortly after the governor’s Friday afternoon press conference. “It’s a different world out there.”
Restimulating the economy by sending people back to work will be imperative in avoiding years worth of negative economic fallout from the pandemic, Mitchell said. However, he agreed with Abbott that having every sector of the workforce return immediately back to normal is not feasible. For example, some workers may be afraid to return to their offices, and those people should not be penalized for feeling that way, he said.
Abbott said at the April 17 conference the state should reopen with caution—in stages—given the inevitable risk of a resurgence with a disease that has no immunization.
“Not all businesses can open at once on May 1,” he said. “A more strategic approach is required to ensure that we don't reopen just to have to shut down once again. [The] openings announced today [will] include activities that should pose little to no threat to expand COVID-19.”
Mitchell urged concerned Texans not to second-guess the decisions that elected officials are making because this is an unprecedented situation.
“They’re making a decision based on their gut feeling and what they think needs to be done,” he said. “[Abbott’s] got to make decisions about things we’ve never encountered before.”
For more details on the governor’s press conference, visit this page.
Nola Z. Valente contributed reporting to this story.