Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the US Army Corps of Engineers and the state are putting up a 250-bed field hospital at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas during a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Sunday, March 29, 2020.
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Texas will lift its most stringent statewide coronavirus restrictions this week and allow some businesses to reopen with safety precautions as the state’s infection rate decelerates, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday.
“Because of your efforts, the Covid-19 infection rate has been on the decline for the past 17 days,” he said at a news briefing. “Because of your efforts, and especially the work of our doctors and nurses and all our health-care providers, our hospitalization rate has held steady and our hospital capacity has remained above it.”
Abbott will allow the current statewide stay-at-home order to expire on April 30, he said, adding that businesses will reopen in phases beginning May 1. He said he will sign an executive order that allows restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters and some others to reopen first, though capacity will be limited to 25%.
The order supersedes all local orders, he said. Abbott said the decision is guided by data and public health officials and is in line with federal guidelines for reopening.
Covid-19 has infected more than 25,292 people in Texas and killed at least 661 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Nationally, the coronavirus has infected almost 1 million people and killed at least 55,630, according to Hopkins.
“We will open in a way that uses safe standards,” he said. “Standards based upon data and doctors.”
Museums and libraries will also be allowed to reopen at the beginning of May at 25% capacity, he said, and all state-licensed health-care professionals can reopen offices with precautions beginning May 1. He added that the state is working to reopen child care facilities and summer camps as quickly as possible.
Churches and religious sites were never closed under Texas’ original restrictions, Abbott said, but under the new order they will be allowed to increase capacity.
More than 1.9 million unemployment claims have been filed since the outbreak began and the state has paid out more than $2 billion, Abbott said.
“Our goal is to get those Texans back to work,” he added.
If the infection rate continues to decline after the first phase of reopening, Abbott said, the state could move in phase two as early as May 18, allowing more businesses to reopen with fewer restrictions. He urged Texans to continue to practice social distancing precautions.
“We’re not just going to reopen and hope for the best,” he said. “We need to see two weeks of data to confirm no flare-up of Covid-19.”
Abbott added that widespread coronavirus testing as well as the ability to trace the contacts of those who test positive is key to preventing a resurgence of the virus as the state reopens. He said the state has established “robust” testing infrastructure and 1,157 local contact tracers and added that the state will mobilize another 1,000 tracers over the next couple of weeks.
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Deborah Birx said Texas’ reopening plan “was great,” according to Abbott.
“We are Texans,” Abbott said. “We got this.”