Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Monday that he will allow the state’s economy to reopen in stages beginning Friday, when his stay-at-home order expires.
“Now more than ever, Texans must remain committed to safe distancing practices that reduce the spread of Covid-19, and we must continue to rely on doctors and data to provide us with the safest strategies to restore Texans’ livelihoods,” Abbott said during a news conference in Austin, noting that the phased reopening plan for Texas is the “result of tremendous input.”
The first to reopen will be restaurants as well as retail stores, malls, theaters, libraries, and museums. Businesses will be required to keep the number of visitors at 25 percent their normal capacity for two weeks or longer. Closer to May 18, businesses will be allowed to increase capacity to 50 percent barring an increase in coronavirus cases in the state.
Businesses that engage in close contact between people, such as hair salons and gyms, will not be allowed to reopen yet, Abbott said, adding that he wants them to open “as soon as possible” and expects that to be in mid-May.
“We must also focus on protecting the most vulnerable Texans from exposure to Covid-19. If we remain focused on protecting the lives of our fellow Texans, we can continue to open the Lone Star State,” Abbott said.
The governor stressed that opening up the Texas economy too early would “be more likely to set us back, rather than to propel us forward.”
“Opening in Texas must occur in stages,” Abbott said earlier this month. “Obviously, not all businesses can open all at once on May 1.”
The Texas governor’s decision to begin easing social distancing measures comes as a number of other Republican governors have begun allowing businesses to reopen despite concerns that their testing capacity is not enough to provide a clear picture of how far the virus has spread. Abbott expressed confidence that Texas “should easily exceed our goal of 25,000 tests per day” by the beginning of May.
Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee have announced plans to start reopening businesses.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced last week that the state will allow restaurants, gyms, bowling alleys, hair and nail salons, and massage therapists to reopen, sparking backlash from President Trump, who said the transition was happening too quickly. Kemp admitted cases of the virus will likely see an uptick as businesses are allowed to reopen across the state.