April 27, 2020
Governor Gets Texas Restart Off the Ground
with Friday Nod for Restaurants and Movies
Executive Order GA-18
Executive Order GA-19
Executive Order GA-20
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
Governor Greg Abbott unveiled a sweeping Texas economic revival blueprint on Monday with a green light for retail businesses, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to reopen this weekend at 25 percent occupancy in the major population centers with more relaxed standards for most rural areas around the state.
The Republican governor also gave doctors and dentists permission to get back to business as usual with specific new safety standards in the initial phase of the reopening plan that gets under way on Friday when Abbott's latest executive order take effect.
Abbott also revealed at a Texas Capitol news conference that he doesn't plan to extend a statewide stay-at-home order that's set to expire on Thursday after 28 days. But Abbott said that bars, gyms, hair salons, tatoo and piercing studios, bowling alleys, video arcades and public swimming pools will not be able to reopen during the first 18 days of the opening phase. But museums and libraries will be able to resume operations this weekend with the same strict limitations on the number of visitors and a mandate that interactive exhibits remain closed for now.
The governor cancelled an order that had required anyone traveling into Texas from the neighboring state of Louisiana to spent their first 14 days here quarantined. Abbott said, however, that Texas will continue to require two-week isolations for people coming here from states and cities that have been hit hard by the coronavirus such as New York, California, Michigan, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.
Abbott recommended that Texans who are 65 years of age or older to remain in their residences as much as possible amid the theory that more people who are younger would be able to go back to work when the COVID-19 death rate here begins to decline. The governor ordered nursing homes and assisted living facilities to prohibit visitors with the exception of those with critical needs.
Abbott said that businesses and individuals in Texas will still be required to abide by federal social distancing guidelines and other safety standards that he detailed in the new decree. But Abbott pointed out that his executive edicts supercede conflicting local requirements including mask mandates that have been in place in the state's largest cities and at least only rural county as well. The governor said local leaders can encourage people in their areas to cover their faces in public but won't have the power to assess fines or jail time for those who do not.
Abbott also announced that the state would be expanding testing and contact tracing programs that have experts had warned were woefully inadequate for an effective containment strategy here.
The governor said that businesses that have reopened must make "special accommodations" for seniors who've accounted for three out of every four coronavirus fatalities despite a significantly lower rate of confirmed cases than Texans who aren't as old. Abbott would be treading on highly fragile ground if he sought to reinforce a requirement that effectively stripped older people of the right to have access to the same activities and businesses as the rest of the citizens here.
Abbott said that the second phase of the resurgence plan would begin on May 18 if the virus didn't "flare up" during the first two weeks of the initial installment. Businesses would be able to operate at 50 percent capacity if that turns out to be the case.
The governor said that businesses can reopen at 50 percent occupancy on Friday in counties where no more than five people have tested positive for the coronavirus. Abbott said that half of the state's 254 counties fit that description.
more to come ...