More businesses will be allowed to open starting today, including day cares, youth clubs and sports, and beauty salons, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a Capitol press conference.
In addition, bars, businesses in office buildings, and zoos, skating rinks, and bingo parlors will be allowed to open Friday – at limited capacities and ensuring that safe practices, including social distancing, are followed, Governor Abbott said. In two areas of the state with increased COVID-19 activity – El Paso and the Amarillo area – these changes will be delayed by one week.
The expanded openings – and directives allowing already-open businesses to open more – are based on a reduction in the number of Texans hospitalized with COVID-19, and a downward trajectory in the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests.
“Every decision I have made, as well as every decision I will announce today, is unanimously supported by our team of medical experts,” Governor Abbott said, adding that the state is committed to keeping physicians and other frontline medical workers safe.
“We appreciate that the governor continues to take measured steps to open the Texas economy, in consultation with his medical advisors,” Texas Medical Association President Diana Fite, MD, said in a statement. “He – and we – encourage all Texans to wash their hands regularly, wear masks in public, and maintain social distancing even as establishments open for business. It is particularly important – actually, it is critically important – that elderly persons and those with severe illnesses remain sheltered. We must maintain extra protections for Texans in nursing homes and assisted living centers.
“The physicians of Texas urge the governor and his advisors to closely monitor signs that we may have moved too quickly. That is not an indication of failure; rather that is part of the plan.”
Governor Abbott said state officials will continue to monitor COVID-19 and will act accordingly if cases rise.
“As we open we must continue to place health and safety first and foremost,” Governor Abbott said. “If hospital capacity is compromised, we will take swift action to take care of our fellow Texans.”
Governor Abbott late last month unveiled a plan to reopen Texas in phases that emphasizes testing and contact tracing – or identifying everyone who’s come into contact with someone who contracted COVID-19.
It also calls on Texans to continue to take health precautions, such as avoiding face-to-face contact, wearing masks or other protection, washing hands, and disinfecting surfaces.
The plan also lifted a ban on non-urgent elective surgeries and allows all licensed health care professionals to return to work.
“This cannot be portrayed as an argument between the economy and the public’s health. There is an undeniable relationship between the two,” Dr. Fite said. “As huge numbers of Texans lose their jobs, we may be adding 1 million people to our already-too-high uninsured rate. As the economy declines, more people can’t afford to eat healthy foods, get regular medical screenings, or see their physicians when an illness is at its earliest – and most treatable stage.”