By Chris Edwards
AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott announced plans for certain businesses to begin opening in May.
Abbott held a press conference on Monday afternoon to discuss his current executive order, which details steps to reopen the state’s economy.
Abbott’s announcement and articulation of the phases planned to reopen will begin its first phase on Friday. The stay-at-home order, which he issued at the end of March, has worked at curbing the numbers of Texans infected with COVID-19, he said. That order ends on Thursday.
The plan’s first phase will allow for retailers, restaurants, malls, movie theaters, libraries, museums and houses of worship to reopen, however occupancy must be limited to no more than 25%.
“It’s entrepreneurs who drive the Texas economy…they need to be unleashed,” said Abbott.
Texans can possibly witness a second phase of business reopenings by May 18, which would allow businesses to expand occupancy to 50%, according to Abbott. This is contingent on two weeks’ worth of data with no virus flare-up.
The governor said he hopes businesses such as barbershops, cosmetology salons, massage parlors, bars and gymnasiums will be able to open by, or no later, than the middle of May. Nursing homes, along with assisted living facilities and long-term care centers are to remain closed to visitors unless to provide critical assistance.
During the press conference at the Capitol, Abbott also explained the practice of contact tracing, which is tracking down and isolating all individuals who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Texas is currently in the second phase of its contact tracing plan, Abbott said.
Abbott also addressed an increase to come in testing, with numbers set to exceed 25,000 tests per day. At press time, according to figures from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 290,517 Texans have been tested. The average has, thus far, been about 14,000 tests administered per day.
On Monday, DSHS, along with the Texas Military Department, Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Medical Task Force announced a partnership to increase the availability of testing for the virus by using mobile testing sites.
In Tyler County, the tests will be available on Friday, April 29 at the Tyler County Office of Emergency Management, located at 201 Veterans Way in Woodville. According to an announcement from the county’s OEM, all the tests will be scheduled in advance, with patients given appointments for testing.
The tests are free of charge at the sites and consist of the nasal swab method of testing. Anyone with one or more of the following symptoms is eligible for testing:
• Fever and/or chills
• Sore throat
• Cough (dry or productive)
• Body aches/muscle or joint pain
• Nasal congestion
• Loss of taste and/or smell
• Shortness of breath
Anyone who is experiencing one or more of the symptoms can contact the call center at 512-883-2400, or register via the website https://txcovidtest.org.
The most current figures at this time, statewide, for confirmed cases stands at 25,297, with 663 Texans
having succumbed to the virus and 11,170 cases that are estimated as recovered, according to DSHS. Those numbers
come from 205 of the 254 Texas counties reporting. In Tyler County, a seventh confirmed case was announced last week, a 62-year-old Spurger woman.
Along with the press conference, Abbott also unveiled a report titled “The Governor’s Report to Open Texas” on his website, https://gov.texas.gov. In the introduction, he calls upon Texans to “act responsibly as we re-engage in the economy, to continue following all health precautions and sanitizing guidelines.”
The report also further elaborates on testing protocols and continuing mitigation techniques, especially among at-risk populations, which he also addressed in the press conference.
“We are Texans, we’ve got this,” he said.