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Gov. Abbott to allow restaurants, retail to open

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday, April 27 that Phase I of ‘Re-Open Texas’ will begin on May 1 and includes opening all retail, restaurants, movie theaters and malls under limited capacities and allowing Executive Order GA-14 to expire.

Abbott spoke during a press conference on Monday, announcing that he will allow GA-14 to expire at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, April 30. This executive order is the statewide shelter-in-place that went into effect on April 2.

“My executive order to stay at home that was issued last month (...) is set to expire on April 30,”  Abbott said. “That executive order has done its job to slow the growth of COVID-19 and I will let it expire as scheduled.”

Abbott explained that Texas will start Phase I of opening up beginning May 1. Phase I includes opening all retail, restaurants, movie theaters and malls all on a limited capacity.

These businesses will be allowed to open with a limited capacity of 25%. Libraries and museums may open, but any hands-on exhibits in museums and libraries will remain closed. There is no requirement of a business to re-open, according to Abbott, and it is up to the specific business to decide what is safest for their community and customers. However, Abbott’s order supersedes local orders saying those businesses must remain closed.

“Once again the ultimate decision on the types of businesses and the extent to which they can open was driven by the doctors advising us about safe medical practices. Those doctors also prescribed health guidelines for businesses, for employees and for customers. Those protocols focus on minimizing the spread of COVID-19 (...),” Abbott said. “So with my new executive order, all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls can re-open May 1.”

With this order, Abbott explained that he does not want to punish rural, or small counties, for containing the spread of the virus. He stated that counties with fewer than five cases will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, but may become stricter if an outbreak occurs.

Young, Jack and Stephens Counties all have fewer than five cases and will allow businesses to operate at 50% capacity.

In addition to stores and restaurants, Abbott explained that churches may continue expanding their capacity even more, but will need to keep safe social distancing practices.

Abbott will allow for outdoor sports, as long as there are less than 4 participants. He listed golf and tennis as two sports that would fall under this category.

With strict protocols, all licensed healthcare workers may return to work.

Abbott attributed the items in this order to the efforts of healthcare workers and essential businesses, along with the community for following orders.

“Because of your efforts, the COVID-19 rate has been on the decline for 17 days,” Abbott said. “Our hospital capacity has remained abundant. At the same time, we cannot forget those who have lost their lives to COVID-19. Our hearts remain with their loved ones. Every life lost is a tragedy.”

Barbershops, hair salons, gyms and bars will not be able to open on Friday, May 1. Abbott left open the possibility of allowing those businesses to reopen when Phase II begins. Abbott expects to enact Phase II on May 18. Phase II would also increase capacity of Phase I businesses to 50%.

“We need to see two weeks of data to confirm no flare up of COVID-19,” Abbott said.

Abbott’s news conference was his second regarding reopening the Texas economy during the pandemic. On April 17, he announced initial steps which included opening state parks and allowing retail stores to open under a retail-to-go model. State parks reopened on April 20. The retail-to-go model went into effect on April 21. The retail-to-go model allows stores to make curbside deliveries or deliveries to customers’ homes.

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