Texas restaurants, stores, malls, movie theaters can reopen May 1 at reduced capacity

Texas restaurants, retailers, malls and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen with restrictions beginning Friday.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that those businesses, along with museums and libraries, will be allowed to operate at 25% capacity across the state starting May 1. Abbott's stay-at-home order will expire on April 30 and will not be extended.

Abbott said his new guidelines supersede any local orders.

The new guidelines are the biggest step yet to re-open parts of the Texas economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"This is a proven business strategy. It's exactly the type of proactive successfully done by H-E-B and Home Depot," Abbott said.

Abbott also said non-contact sports/activities, like golf courses or tennis centers, will be allowed to resume operating, at reduced capacity.

“It’s time to set a new course,” Abbott said, calling the openings Phase 1. 

Counties with five or fewer COVID-19 cases can open businesses at 50% capacity.

Also included in the new guidelines: churches can expand capacity, all health care workers can go back to seeing patients and 15% of hospital capacity must be reserved for COVID-19 patients.

RELATED: Coronavirus coverage

Phase 2 could come as early as May 18, Abbott said, saying state officials needed two weeks of data to ensure there was not a spike in cases. The businesses opening Friday would be allowed to increase capacity to 50% if there was not a second outbreak.

Places like barbershops and salons, bars and gyms were not included in the group of businesses that can reopen on Friday. Doctors advising the governor have advised against opening those businesses right now. Abbott said he hoped to have those businesses open in mid-May.

Last week, Abbott reopened state parks and allowed doctors to perform nonessential surgeries. On Friday, retailers were allowed to start selling items for curbside pickup.

Abbott said safely opening Texas is tied to testing for the virus tracing those who are positive. He showed a chart that shows between now and May 11 the ramping up of contact tracers to 4,000, deployment and use of a tracking app and the rollout of a tracking call center.

Abbott also encouraged Texans to wear masks while going out, but said he wouldn't mandate for them to be worn.

Texas Democrats slammed the plan to open Texas up for business.

“We've got to solve the health crisis in order to get the economy moving again and there's no one who likes the current situation. Every person wants to get the state and the economy moving again, but every rational person, I think, should want to ensure that we are doing it safety,” said U.S. Rep Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso).

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.


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