Texas Will Start Reopening Businesses Including Restaurants and Movie Theaters on May 1

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the next phase of reopening the state's economy during a Monday afternoon address.

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."

Abbott said the reopening would employ safe standards for businesses for employees and their customers, and would be done in a safe and consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that would take place in careful phases starting May 1, and continuing over the next several weeks.

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, he said.

The plan also suggests customers wear masks or face coverings while in public places.

Abbott said if the first phase is successful, the capacity could safely be increased to 50 percent at opened businesses.

"There is a reason that businesses cannot open all at once," Abbott said, citing reports of new COVID-129 outbreaks in China and Singapore. "We are not just going to open up and hope for the best, instead we will put measures in place that will help business open, while also taming the virus and keeping Texans safe."

Abbott appeared on news stations in several Texas cities on Friday to preface the reopening plan and reassure residents that the reopening would happen, but it has to be done safely.

"Well, there are two important factors. One is we know people want to get back to work. We know that business owners, they need to start having some income to pay for their rent or overhead that employees, they need to go back to work," Abbott said in a KSAT report on Friday. "As a result, we're working on orders that will allow businesses to open up in phases gradually in on the lines of what doctors have prescribed to us."

Gov. Greg Abbott
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks to the press in Austin on March 29, 2020. On Monday, Abbott outline the second phase of reopening businesses in Texas that includes continued social distancing, more available testing for COVID-19 and sanitizing businesses prior to reopening. Tom Fox-Pool/Getty

Abbott announced the first phase of reopening on April 17 that 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 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.

Abbott said the most important element of phase one of the reopening involves protecting the most vulnerable, such as those who are 65 and over.

"If we redouble our efforts to protect our most vulnerable senior citizens, we can reduce COVID-19 deaths, while also expanding business operations and increasing the number of Texans reentering the workforce," Abbott said.

Meanwhile, some of the businesses that could begin reopening by mid-May include barbershops and hair salons, gyms and bars, all of which involve close contact with customers.

Jayson Rapaport, the co-founder of Bird's Barbershop, said the entire process of booking an appointment and getting a haircut will be contactless.

"You'll come in and sit at the chair. We'll be wearing a mask, we'll ask that our clients wear a mask, and then when you leave, again, contactless," Rapaport told KVUE in Austin. "You'll be able to walk out the door and finish the transaction on your phone."

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services reported on Monday that there are 25,297 reported cases of the novel coronavirus since March, with an estimated 11,170 recovered and 663 reported deaths.

Cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 205 of the 254 counties in Texas with Harris County recording the most cases with 5,729, followed by Dallas County with 3,014.