Texas restaurants, movie theaters and malls can open Friday

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Gov. Greg Abbott declares a statewide emergency amid new cases of COVID-19 in the state on March 13, 2020 at the state capitol. Photo credit: Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that all Texas restaurants, retail stores and more businesses can open Friday — with restrictions — as the state aims to help the economy rebound while not causing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Denton County restaurants have had their dining rooms closed and non-essential businesses have been closed for about a month because of the coronavirus pandemic. Abbott said the previous statewide stay-at-home order “has done its job to slow the growth of COVID-19,” and he will let it expire on Thursday. His new executive order begins the process of opening some businesses in phases with strict safety standards.

“Texas cannot open all at once,” Abbott said.

Phase 1 begins Friday, Abbott said, and it allows for all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, libraries and museums (no hands-on exhibits) to open. Occupancy must be kept to no more than 25%, however, something he said was a “proven strategy” to keep people safe. Outdoor sports will also be allowed with no more than four participants, such as golf and tennis. Doctor’s offices can also open with few restrictions.

In Phase 1, the most at-risk residents should continue to stay home a much as possible, Abbott said. The advice of doctors and medical experts was used in the plan to gradually reopen.

“If we can contain COVID-19” in the weeks after these reopenings, “we can move to Phase 2 as early as May 18,” Abbott said. “We will need to confirm there is no flare-up” of the virus.

Phase 2 would allow the newly reopened businesses to have occupancy of no more than 50%. Further increases would be allowed in the future if the coronavirus remains contained.

Abbott said there are some businesses that he wants to open, but doctors say it’s not safe yet, such as hair salons, barber shops, bars and gyms. He said he hopes they can open in mid-May.

Abbott said different standards may apply to rural counties with five or fewer cases.

The new executive order supersedes local orders, Abbott said. Denton County officials have said they will align with state guidelines on reopening.

The state still recommends — but does not require — people wear masks in public, and officials continue to urge residents to abide by social distancing guidelines and to continue to take extra precautions to avoid the spread of the virus.

About The Author

Mark Smith

Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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