Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Friday that Texas would soon be open for business. The governor also announced a new statewide task force comprised of health and economic experts that will assist him in determining how to proceed with opening up the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a news conference at the Texas Capitol, the Republican governor announced that state parks could reopen on Monday, but all visitors must wear face coverings.
Gov. Abbott teased that some businesses, but not all, might be able to open in early May.
"Understand this: Opening in Texas must occur in stages," Abbott said. "Obviously, not all businesses can open all at once on May the first. Some businesses, if fully open, without better distancing standards, would be more likely to set us back, rather than to propel us forward. A more strategic approach is required to ensure that we don't reopen only to have to shut down once again."
Gov. Abbott will announce a more detailed strategy on April 27, as to what kinds of businesses will be allowed to reopen and what restrictions they will have to abide by. Abbott wants to see how many coronavirus cases and deaths Texas will have in the next 10 days, and if the state can assuredly flatten the curve.
Abbott said that the reopening of Texas, the second most-populated state in the U.S. with 29 million people, would be determined by "data and by doctors," and as long as citizens continued to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
"Because of the efforts by everyone to slow the spread, we're now beginning to see glimmers that the worst of COVID-19 may soon be behind us," Abbott said during the news conference.
Abbott, who issued a stay-at-home order on April 2, may soon allow retail stores to provide product pickups that he called the "Retail-To-Go" model. He also may loosen surgery restrictions at medical facilities, permitting people to get elective operations again.
"Even more openings will be announced in May when it is determined that the infection rate continues to decline and when testing capabilities are sufficient to test and contain outbreaks of the virus," Abbott stated.
More than 1 million Texans filed for unemployment insurance between March 15 to April 11 following widespread business closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
What won't open any time soon is the schools. Abbott said schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year. Teachers will be permitted to use classrooms for administrative work and online classes.
Texas has more than 17,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 428 deaths, but only 15 deaths per million people. Abbott pointed out that Texas has the "second-most recoveries from COVID-19 of all states in America."
Gov. Abbott's "Strike Force to Open Texas" will include Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt.
Health experts will include Dr. Mark McClellan, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and U.S. Medicaid and Medicare administrator; Dr. John Zerwas, who is executive vice chancellor for Health Affairs at the University of Texas system; and Dr. Parker Hudson, an assistant professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases at Dell Medical School.
Assisting the advisory board on the economic side will be several entrepreneurs, including Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies; Nancy Kinder, the CEO of Kinder Foundation; Brad Heffington, the owner of Heffington Farms; Don Evans, the chairman of the President George W. Bush Foundation; Kathy Britton, the CEO of Perry Homes; Richard Fisher, senior adviser at Barclays; and businessman Ross Perot Jr.
"We will focus on protecting lives while restoring livelihoods. We can, and we must do this," Abbott said last Saturday at a COVID-19 news conference. "With Texans helping Texans; with Americans helping Americans, we can conquer this coronavirus outbreak."
"We've learned from past disasters that from suffering comes perseverance. From perseverance comes character. From character comes hope," Abbott said.
LIVE: Press Conference on COVID-19 https://t.co/8fZWIWYNzN— Greg Abbott (@Greg Abbott)1587142857.0