This article was originally published by Mike Williams on April 17, 2020, for The Graham Leader.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in an April 17 press conference, announced an executive order designed to re-open the Texas economy in multiple waves over the next several weeks. Included in the order, as previously reported in The Graham Leader, Abbott ordered the closure of all schools to extend until the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
The first item announced was the formation of a statewide strike force made up of business and medical leaders from around the state. The strike force includes Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Comptroller Glenn Hegar, former federal Medicare and Medicaid Commissioner Mark McClellan, state health commissioner John Hellerstedt and former Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond.
Abbott picked several business leaders from across the state to include in his strike force, including Kendra Scott, Michael Dell, Dallas billionaire Robert Rowling, James “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, and former Dallas Federal Reserve president Richard Fisher. Also included are H. Ross Perot Jr. and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, of Kansas.
“Deaths, while far too high, will not come close to the early dire predictions,” Abbott said. “We have demonstrated we can corral the coronavirus (…) In opening Texas, we must be guided by data and by doctors.”
Abbott also announced the first wave of re-openings in Texas. Beginning Monday, April 20, all state parks will be allowed to re-open with restrictions. Visitors will still be required to wear face masks and stay six feet away from people that do not live in the same home. Abbott also announced a ban on groups larger than five in the parks.
Beginning Wednesday, April 22, the current set of restrictions on medical procedures and surgeries will be relaxed. Abbott noted that hospitals have “plenty of capacity” and that there is a large supply of personal protection equipment (PPE) for medical staff. An example provided by Abbott of a procedure that will be allowed is a diagnostic test for cancer. The order allows for a limited number of nonessential surgeries, as long as hospitals reserve at least 25% of their capacity to remain available for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
By Friday, April 24, all retail stores in the state will be allowed to operate as a “retail-to-go”. Retail stores will operate similar to restaurants that have been doing takeout service since restrictions went into effect in March.
“During our battle with COVID-19 over the last month, we have seen some retailers selling products without customers going into stores,” Abbott said. “(…) you simply order the product, you pick it up or have it delivered to you. Because we’ve seen that this model works, while also containing COVID-19, we believe that all stores in Texas should be able to operate retail-to-go beginning next Friday.”
An additional wave of re-openings will be announced on April 27. However, Abbott warned that if there is a spike in cases, restrictions will go back into place.