Health Experts Suggest Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's Plan to Reopen State Is Premature

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's scheme to begin reopening the state may be too soon, medical experts have warned.

Abbott, who issued a stay-at-home order on March 30, said he would let that order expire on April 30 as the state begins its first real phase of reopening. "That executive order has done its job," Abbott said. "It's time to set a new course; A course that responsibly reopens business in Texas."

The first businesses allowed to reopen on May 1 include retail stores, shopping malls, restaurants, movie theaters, museums and libraries. The businesses will operate at 25 percent of capacity to ensure proper social distancing.

While many have agreed with Abbott's phased approach to reopening business in Texas, some health experts have said it has begun too soon.

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"The last thing we want is to waste all the great foresight and decisions we've made by ignoring the data and prematurely reopening wide," William McKeon, president of the Texas Medical Center, told the Houston Chronicle.

"It would be terrible for the community to respond so well, averting what happened in New York, and then find ourselves in a situation where we're in our surge capacity and not able to offer citizens a bed, ventilator, and care they deserve."

One of the key criticisms is that the announcement has come too soon for businesses to make the necessary precautionary measures before opening. Health experts have also said Texas needs to increase its testing and contact tracing abilities before allowing the state to reopen.

Texas Gov Greg Abbott
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued a stay-at-home order on March 30, said he would let that order expire on April 30 as the state begins its first real phase of reopening Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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It is also crucial to ensure the state is prepared for a rise in cases as the lockdown is lifted.

"As soon as we lift restrictions, whatever that strategy is, if it's gradual or tiered or certain sectors of the economy or population are released first, we can certainly expect to see a spike in cases," Rebecca Fischer, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Texas A&M University School of Public Health, told the Texas Tribune.

"What we want to make sure is that we're far enough into the tail end of the epidemic that that bump will be minor and it won't wind up shutting down the economy again."

During a city council meeting, Mark Escott, the city of Austin's interim health authority, said the plan to lift the quarantine measures has been brought in too soon. "As we're still preparing contact tracing, ramping up testing, working to protect vulnerable populations, now is not the time to flip on the light switch," he said.

Abbott announced the first phase of reopening on April 17. It included a timeline to open state parks on April 20 and the launch of retail-to-go practice, which began on April 24.

Abbott also ordered all school campuses, colleges and universities closed the remainder of the school year, and loosening of instructions for physicians on elective surgeries and diagnostic procedures.

The second phase could begin May 18, provided the novel coronavirus does not spread, to open more businesses, and the businesses that reopened on May 1 to expand capacity.

"We need to see two weeks of data to confirm no flare-up of COVID-19," he said.

The phased reopening of Texas economy includes continued use of social distancing practices, continued availability of COVID-19 testing, maintaining good hygiene and handwashing techniques, and enhancing sanitizing efforts in local businesses.

So far, 27,054 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Texas and the death toll has reached 732, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Newsweek has contacted Abbott for comment.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
Health Experts Suggest Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's Plan to Reopen State Is Premature | U.S.