AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave an update Friday afternoon on plans to slowly start opening the state’s economy back up and how classrooms will remain closed for the rest of the school year.
Abbott started by introducing the Strike Force to Open Texas that will begin the process of reopening businesses as the economy has taken massive hits during the shutdowns. The task force will include Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Abbott said the task force’s goal will be to look at ways at reopening the state’s economy safely while the pandemic is still going on.
The governor issued an executive order that will allow “retail to go” in order for businesses that were forced to shut down to open their doors again. This is expected to go into effect next Friday, April 24.
“You will be able to access more retailers while also minimizing contact with others. It sets standards on retailers and insures reducing exposure to COVID-19,” Abbott said.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) released a document with guidance on how these businesses can reopen safely for employees and customers.
Abbott said he will announce further plans to reopen businesses on Monday, April 27.
“In these next ten days, we will prepare a phase in strategy to open Texas in a safe way. It will require comprehensive testing and assurances of hospital readiness for COVID-19 patients. It will focus on containing the risks of resurgence of COVID-19 and protecting our most vulnerable Texans.”
Abbott also announced that state parks will reopen starting on Monday, April 20. However, visitors must wear face masks or coverings, keep group sizes to five or less and maintain a distance of six feet from others.
The governor’s other major announcement was that classrooms in Texas will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. This includes public, private, colleges and universities. Schools have been using online classes for the last several weeks.
“The team of doctors advising us have determined it would be unsafe to allow students in schools in the foreseeable future,” Abbott said.
Abbott did not address plans for the next school year.
Abbott also talked about plans to allow medical procedures unrelated to COVID-19 to resume starting next week. He said the state has the hospital capacity and supply to allow doctors and nurses to start treating those other patients.
“It’s time for doctors and nurses to return to work. However, it must be done in ways to insure we’ll be able to treat COVID-19 patients. Adequate supplies of hospital beds and PPE must be maintained to insure that all COVID-19 needs are met. Effective April 22, current restrictions on surgery will be loosened,” Abbott said.
The newly formed task force will continue to find ways to reopen the state as the pandemic continues. As of 1 p.m. Friday, there are 17,371 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 428 deaths in Texas. An estimated 4,190 people have recovered, according to the DSHS.
“Texans are battling a colossal challenge—an invisible enemy that has tested our lives and our livelihoods—but overcoming challenges is part of who we are as Texans,” Abbott said. “We have shown that Texas can continue our efforts to contain COVID-19 while also adopting safe standards that will allow us to begin the process of reopening Texas.”