Texas is the first state with set dates to lift certain COVID-19 restrictions as of April 17 when Gov. Greg Abbott announced three executive orders to restore more jobs while keeping Texans safe, he announced during a press conference.
"We are now beginning to see glimmers that the worst of COVID-19 may soon be behind us," Abbott said during the press conference. "Texas has the second-most recoveries out of all states in America.”
Abbott added the state should re-open 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.”
The governor announced the establishment of a strike force to open Texas and set the organization and duties of the task force during the press conference. The task force will gather information and decide the best way for businesses to reopen as well as determine the safe social distancing practices each business should use.
The task force includes the following individuals:
- Lt. Gov Dan Patrick-consulting member
- Kendra Scott-Founder and CEO, Kendra Scott
- Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale-Owner, Gallery Furniture
- Ross Perot Jr.-Chairman, The Perot Group
- Tilman Fertitta-Chairman, CEO, and sole owner, Landry's, Inc.
- Nancy Kinder-President & CEO, Kinder Foundation
- James Huffines-Strike Force chair
Abbott also announced that all Texas retailers will be allowed to offer to-go services as of April 24.
“Retailers are such an important part of our economy,” Abbott said. “During our battle with COVID-19 in the past month and a half we have seen some retailers sell products without customers going into stores and reducing exposure to the coronavirus. Because we have seen that this works while also containing COVID-19, we believe that all stores in Texas should be able to operate retail to-go.”
However, Texas schools are closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, Abbott announced. Teachers will be allowed to visit their classrooms for instructional videos or to clean them out, he said. TEA commissioners will provide more details regarding how to conclude this semester and conduct graduation ceremonies as well as how to conduct classes this summer.
Parks will reopen as of April 20, but visitors should wear face masks and stay six feet away from anyone from a different household as well as keep groups to no more than five people.
Surgery restrictions will also be lifted as of April 22. This will allow doctors and nurses who have been sidelined, due to the need to postpone nonessential medical procedures, to return to work.
This had previously been decided to free up hospital capacity and the personal protective equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients. But the governor said Texas hospitals have enough capacity, as of now.
On April 27, the governor's office will announce more ways to open Texas in a safe way, Abbott said. The decisions will be based on data and how contained the spread of COVID-19 is in Texas. It will consider reopening more venues including restaurants, movie theaters and other gathering places that can provide safe distancing practices. Lastly, they will also consider expanding elected surgeries.
"Texans are battling a colossal challenge,” Abbott said. “An invisible enemy that is testing our livelihoods. Part of the Texas brand is our ability to overcome challenges. Together we can overcome this pandemic [and] get folks back to work. Step by step, we will open Texas.”