AUSTIN, Texas (KETK) – Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Friday a complex executive order that is designed to re-open Texas in several waves over the next several weeks.
The order created a statewide strike force comprised of business and medical leaders from around the state, including Matress Mack and Ross Perot Jr.
It will also be headed by Texas’ top political leaders such as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, and Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Abbott stressed that while he is beginning a re-opening in Texas, it “must occur in stages.”
Beginning on Monday, April 20, all state parks will be allowed to re-open. Visitors will still be required to wear face masks, stay six feet away from people that do not live in the same home, and a ban on groups larger than five.
On Wednesday, April 22, current restriction on medical procedures and surgeries will be loosened. Abbott claimed that hospitals have “plenty of capacity” and that the state had a large supply of protection gear for doctors.
An example of a procedure that will be allowed to restart is a diagnostic to test for cancer.
By Friday, April 24, all retail stores in the state will be allowed to operate as “retail-to-go.” It will operate the same way as restaurants have been doing takeout service since the social distancing restrictions went into effect back in early March.
Abbott did not mention when restaurants and bars would be able to re-open for full, in-house service.
A revised plan for a potential second wave of re-openings will be announced in 10 days on April 27. Abbott said that if the curve begins to go back up, restrictions will go back in place.
The stay-at-home order remains in place through April 30. It is unclear if he will extend it, however it appears to be unlikely at this point.
A key point of Abbott’s announcement was that all schools in Texas are ordered closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
Teachers will be allowed back into their classrooms to clean out supplies or to prepare lesson plans for potential summer classes.
In an interview with KETK anchors Neal Barton and Kaci Koviak Friday evening, Abbott acknowledged that keeping schools closed for the rest of the year might be disappointing to Texas teachers and their students, but that it was the only safe option.
Pressure has been growing from conservatives on Abbott and governors nationwide to begin the process of allowing people to go back to work at the start of May.
Abbott’s stay-at-home directive is set to expire April 30 as are many orders around the country.
In Tyler, Representative Matt Schaefer (R) said that it would be on individual Texans to practice social distancing and protect those who cannot physically protect themselves.
On Thursday, Tyler Mayor Martin Heines urged residents to take social distancing seriously and to not rush in returning to normal routines.
Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran also said he wanted to begin a “responsible restart” as soon as possible, but that his decision “would not be emotionally based.”
In East Texas, there are nearly 600 confirmed cases throughout the region. Here is the most recent tally:
- Smith County – 112, 2 deaths
- Nacogdoches County – 72, 6 deaths
- Bowie County –70, 5 deaths
- Gregg County – 49
- Shelby County – 46
- Harrison County – 36, 2 deaths
- Panola County – 33, 3 deaths
- Rusk County – 27, 1
- Angelina County – 23
- Polk County – 14
- Henderson County – 12
- Van Zandt County – 11, 1 death
- San Augustine County – 11, 1 death
- Cherokee County – 10, 1 death
- Upshur County – 9
- Titus County – 8
- Cass County – 8
- Anderson County – 6
- Wood County – 6
- Camp County – 6
- Hopkins County – 4
- Marion County – 4
- Trinity County – 4
- Morris County – 3
- Marion – 4
- Rains – 2
- Franklin County – 1