At a press conference on Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he would be moving forward with his “Phase 2” plan of opening Texas after the state has been locked down in response to the coronavirus for the past several months.
The first phase, which began on May 1, included the reopening of dine-in restaurants and retail stores to 25 percent of their building capacity.
While salons and barbershops were not originally included in Abbott’s first phase, he later announced that they could reopen on May 8 after facing pressure from the public.
At the same time, he stated that gyms could begin reopening on May 18, provided they maintain the 25 percent limited capacity and follow other safe hygiene practices.
In his announcement today, Abbott said that other “personal service businesses” would be able to open today as well, which will reportedly be listed on his “Open Texas” webpage soon.
Businesses located in office buildings will also be able to open today to the limited capacity of 10 employees or 25 percent of their workforce, whichever is larger.
Beginning today, childcare programs such as Boys and Girls Clubs or YMCA programs are also permitted to reopen.
Abbott also said that on Friday, May 22, “bars, wine tasting rooms, craft breweries, and similar businesses” will be permitted to open at a 25 percent limited capacity. Restaurants will also be able to expand their current capacities from 25 to 50 percent.
“Those capacity limits do not apply to outdoor areas that maintain safe distancing,” said Abbott.
On May 31, youth sports camps such as Little League Baseball and Softball will be allowed to open and “parents will be allowed to spectate, so long as social distancing is followed.”
Youth camping activities will also be allowed to continue, including daytime and overnight summer camps, and other programs such as scouting, Vacation Bible School, and 4-H camps.
Also on May 31, Abbott said that “some professional sports could return,” including “pro-golf, auto racing, baseball, softball, tennis, football, and basketball.”
Special safety standards to prevent the spread of the virus will apply to all sporting and camp activities.
School districts will be able to provide summer school “as soon as June 1.”
The list of activities and businesses included in the press release from the governor follows:
- Child Care Centers (May 18)
- Massage and Personal-Care Centers (May 18)
- Youth Clubs (May 18)
- Rodeo and Equestrian Events (May 22)
- Bowling Alleys, Bingo Halls, Simulcast Racing, and Skating Rinks (May 22)
- Bars (May 22)
- Aquariums and Natural Caverns (May 22)
- Zoos (May 29)
- Day Youth Camps (May 31)
- Overnight Youth Camps (May 31)
- Youth Sports (May 31)
- Certain professional sports without in-person spectators (May 31)
However, Abbott said that due to new surges in cases in areas such as El Paso and Amarillo, the second phase of reopening would be pushed back an extra week in select parts of the state.
El Paso, Randall, Potter, Moore, and Deaf Smith counties were included in Abbott’s list of delayed reopenings.
As previously analyzed by The Texan, Abbott noted the statewide downward trend in the positive rate of cases and the stable number of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
He said that “hotspots” of new cases were generally seen emerging in three different categories: nursing homes, jails, and meatpacking plants.
Abbott said that they are responding to these hotspots by sending out “surge response teams” to increase testing in those areas. For nursing homes, the state is attempting to test every resident and staff member.
“When we increase testing and hotspots, the number of people testing positive is going to spike,” said Abbott. “Then what we find is that usually within a week or two, the flare-up is contained. The number of people testing positive is reduced, as is the number of people who are hospitalized.”
While a representative of the Department of State Health Services reportedly said that antibody tests — which look for prior, not active, cases — were being mixed in with the testing results of active cases, Abbott stated that the numbers were not being “commingled,” but would be reported separately.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. While recently finishing his degree in Political Science from Azusa Pacific University, he also interned in the U.S. Senate and co-authored a book on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. In his spare time, he might be reading up on Dostoevsky or attempting to write a novel.