Governor Greg Abbott, flanked by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), announced the creation of a task force, led by former University of Texas regent and Austin banker James Huffines, to analyze data and issue recommendations for reopening Texas’ economy.
Included in that task force are Patrick, Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Comptroller Glenn Hegar, DSHS Commissioner John Hellerstedt, former FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan, former State Senator Kirk Watson, and others.
Abbott then announced a rough timeline of actions and important dates. At first, a limited number of businesses will be allowed to reopen. Then, on April 27 he plans to announce expansions of that, with more to come in May.
On April 24, however, all retailers will be permitted to operate to-go services provided they adhere to social distancing protocols. Customers will not be able to go into the store, but will be permitted to order online or over the phone and pick up at the store or have the products delivered.
Effective on April 22, restrictions on “non-essential” surgeries will be loosened to allow things such as “diagnostic cancer tests.” Abortions are not included in that expansion, the governor stated. But he added that “question will ultimately be decided in the courts.”
Additionally, state parks will reopen on April 20 and visitors must wear masks and maintain proper social distancing. Individuals are prohibited from congregating in groups larger than five.
Public and private schools, including all higher education institutions, will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
These provisions are, according to the governor, exceptions to his stay-at-home order which runs through April 30. At that point, Abbott will determine whether to extend that order or not.
“These re-openings must occur in stages,” Abbott stated.
He further said, “The decision to reopen business will be based on two things: the task force’s recommendations and the data.”
Abbott added that the Texas Workforce Commission has fulfilled over one million unemployment claims, distributing over $500 million in benefits.
According to the DSHS, Texas has conducted nearly 170,000 tests. Of those, 17,371 have tested positive — from which 428 have died and 4,190 have recovered.
Thus far, 1,522 have been hospitalized due to COVID-19-related complications.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.