State unveils phased plan to reopen economy

Press Reports
Posted 4/28/20

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday afternoon that stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19 will expire at the end of April, and some businesses in the state will be allowed to reopen if they adopt “safe standards.”

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State unveils phased plan to reopen economy

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday afternoon that stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19 will expire at the end of April, and some businesses in the state will be allowed to reopen if they adopt “safe standards.”

“It’s hard to get rid of this virus because it is so contagious,” Abbott said in a news conference that was also streamed online. “So we’re not just going to open up and hope for the best. Instead we will put measures in place that will help businesses open but also contain the virus and keeping Texans safe.”

The phased reopening of non-essential businesses includes retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls with a limited occupancy of 25%. Phase two would allow 50% capacity.

The first phase does not allow for the opening of barbershops, hair salons, nail salons or gyms. The second phase should come in mid-May, Abbott said.

Shops and restaurants in rural counties with fewer than five cases of COVID-19, which would include Madison County, can reopen up to 50% of occupancy. But Abbott said counties could revert back to more limited capacity if there is a new outbreak of coronavirus cases.

During his announcement Monday, Abbott said state residents should be encouraged to wear face coverings or masks when in public, but said he would not mandate their use, unlike Harris County Judge Linda Hidalgo has done in the state’s largest county.

Abbott said his order would supersede all local orders, some of which have been stronger than prior state orders.

Under phase one, museums and libraries will be allowed to re-open, and churches can expand capacity. Outdoor sports activities will also be allowed as long as there four participants or less, like golf and tennis.

Madison County, as of Tuesday, still had only two confirmed cases of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. The Texas Department of Emergency Management performed testing in the county Friday and may do additional testing days, according to Madison County Emergency Coordinator Shelly Butts.

“We are waiting on the results from the 20 tests done at the state’s one-day [drive-through] COVID-19 Collection Site for Testing,” Butts said in an e-mail Monday. “We are working to schedule another day of testing for the state. This will be the swab tests, again, NOT the antibody test.

“We expect the testing to be open to everyone, with or without symptoms, but will publicize as soon as we receive the information from the state.”

County Commissioners agreed this week to reopen the Madison County Courthouse on Monday. According to Madisonville City Manager Camilla Viator, there haven’t yet been discussions to do the same at City Hall.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 207 of the 254 counties in Texas have confirmed cases of the virus as of Tuesday. There are 26,171 confirmed cases in the state, with 690 fatalities tied to COVID-19.

TDSHS reported 874 new daily cases, up from 666 Monday.

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