Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appears to be leading the charge on the grand reopening of America, detailing plans to reopen the Lone Star state during a press conference on Friday — moves that will expand elective surgeries, allow retailers to resume operations under a “Retail-To-Go” model, see the reopening of state parks, and beyond.
Abbott is issuing three executive orders outlining moves to reopen the state, just one day after President Trump provided the federal guidelines for reopening the country:
First, Abbott outlined the duties of the Strike Force to Open Texas: “a team of nationally recognized medical experts and private and public leaders who will advise the Governor on safely and strategically reopening the state of Texas.”
The team will gather information and outline safe practices businesses should use as the state gears up to reopen. It will also examine “all strategies that may open up Texas while also keeping us protected from the expansion of COVID-19.”
Abbott said the state will reopen in a methodical, phased approach, and announced the expansion of elective medical procedures, citing the state of doctors, nurses, hospitals, and medical staff who have been “sidelined” by the postponement of such procedures.
“Today Texas has plenty of hospital capacity. We have solid supply chain of PPE and many of our doctors and nurses have patients who desperately need medical treatment,” he said on Friday.
“It is time to allow those doctors and nurses to return to work. However, it must be done in ways to ensure that we will be able to treat COVID-19 patients,” he added.
Effective April 22, current restrictions on procedures will be loosened, allowing doctors to diagnose and treat certain medical conditions without seeking exceptions, such as diagnostic tests for suspected cancer.
He also issued an executive order focusing on the retail sector, noting that many retailers have been selling products “without customers going in stores” and utilizing pick up or delivery during the battle against the virus.
“Because we’ve seen that this model works, while also containing COVID-19, we believe that all stores in Texas should be able to operate retail to-go beginning next Friday, one week from today,” the governor announced.
The temporary plan, he said, allows residents to access more retailers while minimizing contacts with others.
Abbott also stressed the importance of physical and mental health and the role the outdoors plays in both. That considered, “state parks will be reopened beginning this coming Monday,” he announced.
To reduce transmission, visitors must wear masks and maintain a distance of at least six feet for members who are not part of the same household. Parks also will not allow gatherings of groups larger than five.
As for schools, officials determined that it would be “unsafe” to allow kids to gather for the “foreseeable future.” Because of that, those will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Teachers are allowed to go into the classrooms for administrative duties, video instruction, or to clean out their classrooms. Officials will provide more details on how to proceed, particularly with graduation ceremonies, in coming days.
Abbott said officials will provide revised plans, outlining the next steps the state will take to reopen, on April 27. Those will be based on how well the virus is contained across the state. It, the governor said, is all part of the phased strategy to open Texas in a “safe way.”
The revised plans will emphasize protecting the most vulnerable while allowing residents to increase interactions, he added. Depending on how the first phase rolls out, officials will consider opening more venues, like restaurants and movie theaters.
As the first phases begin to take place, the strike force will “immediately begin providing input on potential additional openings of activities and services in Texas consistent with guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
“Together we can bend the curve. Together we can overcome this pandemic. We can get folks back to work. We can adopt safe strategies that prevent the spread of COVID 19, and step by step, we will open Texas,” Abbott said.