Coronavirus: Texas first US state to announce plans to begin reopening starting next week

State parks will open and shops can offer 'retail to go' next week after Trump guidelines to restart economy during pandemic

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 17 April 2020 15:47
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Texas has announced plans to begin reopening the state as early as May following Donald Trump's "guidelines" for easing quarantine efforts in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Greg Abbott's "Strike Force to Open Texas" — which also includes Lt Gov Dan Patrick, who suggested last month that elderly Americans would be willing to die to reboot the economy — will determine next steps to begin relaxing mitigation measures.

Plans for reopening businesses will be announced 27 April, but Governor Abbott suggested retailers begin "retail to go" next Friday.

State parks will reopen on Monday, but visitors will be required to wear face coverings. Schools will remain closed through the rest of the school year.

On Thursday, the president unveiled controversial guidelines to local governments for "Opening Up America Again" with a three-phase set of recommendations that the president said could be in place for some parts of the country immediately, though he declined to name those states.

Governor Abbott's plans kicked off with three executive orders he issued on Friday, allowing retailers to sell products for curbside pickup beginning on 24 April.

Another order will allow some nonessential surgeries in hospitals beginning early next week, and a third order reopens the parks.

"We're now beginning to see glimmers that the worst of Covid-19 may soon be behind us," the governor said at a press conference on Friday. "We have demonstrated that we can corral the coronavirus."

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The Republican governor suggested that plans could be rolled back if the state begins to see a spikes in cases.

But "if the data continues to show a flatlining and then a decline" in positive Covid-19 tests, the state will "begin the process of opening up some businesses that adhere to the strictest strategies that will reduce the spread of the coronavirus."

The state has reported at least 428 coronavirus-related deaths, among more than 17,000 cases.

But the state has tested roughly 169,500 people, a fraction of the Lone Star State's 29 million people, raising concerns that an underreported population of infected people could easily revive an outbreak if residents go back to work and resume business as usual so soon after quarantine measures have been in place.

Governor Abbott said the state is expecting to receive a "dramatic increase" in testing following talks with the White House.

Late last month, the governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order, though counties with some of the largest populations issued similar measures much earlier.

Austin has extended its stay-at-home order through 1 May.

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