The Texas Workforce Commission has processed a record-breaking number of unemployment claims since the coronavirus outbreak began, and Abbott said his goal is to get Texans back to work by safely reopening businesses.
“Millions of Texans have sacrificed their livelihoods as well as so many of their cherished moments in an unprecedented effort to prioritize the health and safety of our fellow Texans. It has been a collective effort to slow the spread of COVID-19,” he said. “Because of your efforts, the COVID-19 infection rate has been on the decline over the past 17 days. Because of your efforts—and especially the work of doctors and nurses and all health care providers—our hospitalization rate has held steady, and our hospital capacity has remained abundant.”
Abbott said the decisions made to gradually reopen the state’s economy are based on advice from doctors and data reporting the containment of COVID-19 in Texas. However, he said he encourages Texans to continue safe distancing practices and recommends wearing a face covering when in public.
The rate of individuals recovering from the virus will soon outpace the number of active cases, Abbott said. As of 2 p.m. April 27, there were 25,297 total confirmed cases statewide and of those, an estimated 11,170 had recovered, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“It’s a fact: It’s hard to get rid of this virus because it is so contagious,” Abbott said. “So we’re not just going to open up and hope for the best. Instead, we will put measures in place that will help businesses open while also containing the virus and keeping Texans safe.”
Abbott explained the first phase of his plan will go into effect May 1, and officials will continue to monitor state data over the next several weeks with hopes of implementing the second phase as early as May 18.
- All retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls have the option to reopen May 1 as long as occupancy is limited to no more than 25%.
- Museums and libraries will be permitted to open under the same 25% capacity requirement as long as interactive hands-on exhibits remain closed.
- All licensed health care professionals are allowed to return to work with few restrictions. Licensed hospitals must still reserve 15% capacity for COVID-19 patients.
- Churches and places of worship will be able to expand their capacity for operations.
- Outdoor sports such as tennis and golf will be allowed as long as no more than four participants are playing together at the same time.
- Businesses that will not be permitted to open at this time include barber shops and hair salons, bars and gyms. Abbott said his medical advisers have not yet deemed the opening of these businesses to be safe, but he is hopeful he will be able to take that step by mid-May.
- Vulnerable populations such as the elderly are encouraged to stay home if possible during this time.
- Businesses allowed to open in Phase 1 would be able to increase their capacity to 50%, and the list of businesses allowed to operate would expand around May 18 as long as the virus remains contained, Abbott said.
Abbott also announced April 27 another 1,000 contact tracers will be deployed over the next two weeks. This system involves reaching out to individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, learning who they might have exposed while infected and asking those who have been exposed to quarantine for 14 days.
State parks reopened April 20 with social distancing stipulations, and Texas retailers were permitted to begin offering to-go services to limit customer interaction April 24. Abbott announced these plans April 17—the same day he said schools statewide would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.
For a full list of guidelines to reopen businesses across the state, visit www.gov.texas.gov/opentexas.