With President Trump ramping up his campaign to reopen states and protests mounting in states where governors have been deemed to have gone too far with executive orders, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) took the most aggressive steps of any governor yet to begin the process of rolling back restrictions to reopen the state’s shutdown-battered economy.
On Friday, Abbott announced the state’s shifting policies on its coronavirus social distancing measures. While the governor stressed that residents should continue to practice federally recommended social distancing measures, he provided some dates for the reopening of some public facilities and stores and a loosening of health care restrictions.
“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,” Abbott said Friday, as reported by Fox News. While his administration feels confident in beginning to ease some of the restrictions, the governor also emphasized that in re-opening the state, they must be “guided by data and by doctors.”
Texas, which has a population of around 30 million, has seen 414 residents die in connection to COVID-19 thus far, Dallas Morning News reports. That number, Abbott said, is “far too high,” but trends suggest that the state “will not come close to the early dire predictions.”
The Republican governor said that while traditional and charters schools should remain closed for students for the rest of the academic year, next week the state will begin to reopen state parks, allow health care providers to perform some elective procedures that have been restricted under the current stay-at-home order, and allow retail stores to provide “to go” service.
Though schools are to remain closed to students, teachers are allowed to return to campus “under controlled conditions to conduct remote instruction and perform administrative duties,” Dallas Morning News notes. The paper provides the following summary of Abbott’s key orders (order adjusted):
- On Monday, state parks will again open their gates, though visitors will have to wear masks or face coverings and keep at least six feet away from other visitors who aren’t members of their families.
- Starting Wednesday, in a bow to doctors and hospitals, restrictions on elective procedures and surgeries will be loosened. He cited biopsies for cancer as one example.
- Starting April 24, retailers who previously were considered nonessential may begin providing pickup service or home delivery for customers[.]
To help guide the reopening process, Abbott announced the creation of the “Strike Force to Open Texas,” which consists of “a team of nationally recognized medical experts as well as private and public leaders who will advise the governor on safely and strategically reopening the state,” Fox News explains.
“The Strike Force to Open Texas brings together nationally recognized medical experts with public and private sector leaders to achieve this mission,” said the governor. “By coming together, we can get Texans back to work, practice safe standards that will prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we can overcome this pandemic.”
In response, some Texas Democrats have voiced concerns and one even went so far as to call the governor’s plan a “hoax.”
During a press call on Friday, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-San Antonio) said Abbott’s plan is “not a plan at all — it’s a hoax.” He also complained that the lead member of the governor’s strike force is a top lobbyist. Other prominent Democrats, Dallas Morning News reports, chided Abbott, saying he should “follow doctors’ orders” on taking the reopening slowly.