All retail stores in Texas will be able to reopen on April 24, while restaurants and movie theaters could reopen by the end of the month, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Friday.
Retailers that have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic have largely operated through delivery or having customers place orders and then pick them up while having little or no contact with employees.
“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,” Abbott told reporters at a press conference.
People won’t be allowed to go into stores.
The state Health and Human Services released guidance shortly after the announcement with guidance for employers, employees, and customers of reopened service. The guidance says employees should be screened for symptoms of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a novel coronavirus that emerged from mainland China last year that causes COVID-19. It also says all employees must wear masks or face coverings.
Officials are weighing letting restaurants, movie theaters, and other places that can provide safe distancing practices reopen but won’t announce their decision on that phase until April 27. The move will depend on the current situation with the new disease in the state.
Abbott announced a lockdown last month, similar to governors across the nation, and people have remained at home except for so-called essential trips.
Texas has demonstrated it “can corral” the virus, Abbott said. Hospitalizations and cases in the state are leveling off and hospitals have a number of hospital rooms and ventilators. Deaths, while far too high, “will not come close to the early dire predictions,” according to the Republican governor. Early models predicted healthcare systems in Texas would become overloaded, but that did not happen, a situation that played out nationwide.
Officials are focusing on allowing the re-starting of activities that pose minimal or no risk of spreading the virus and broadening the reopening in phases.
State parks will reopen on April 20. Visitors must stay six feet away from non-household members and wear masks or face coverings. They must also gather in groups no larger than five.
Schools will be closed for the rest of the school year, based on advice from a team of doctors advising state officials.
Additional business reopenings will be announced on April 27 and even more will be announced in May as long as the infection rate continues to decline, hospital bed availability remains available, and the testing capacity is boosted.
Still, people will have to act differently than they did before the pandemic, Abbott said, including maintaining distance from others, until a vaccine is developed.
As of now, vaccines aren’t expected until 2021.
Businesses that reopen in the coming weeks could have to limit the number of people in stores, have employees and/or customers wear masks, and increase sanitation measures. The reopening strategy features comprehensive testing as officials try to make sure the number of new CCP virus cases and hospitalizations don’t start surging again.