Over the past few months, COVID-19 has ravaged our state, robbing thousands of otherwise healthy Texans of their lives and devastating our once-thriving economy in the process. As we continue our fight to prevent this outbreak from spreading further, state leaders have been looking ahead to determine the best path for reopening our economy and getting Texans back to work.
Among the 22 million Americans who have filed for unemployment benefits in recent weeks, one million of them are Texans. That number is expected to swell as more employers are faced with the difficult decision of laying off employees or shutting their doors forever. Even amid all the grief and uncertainty, there’s still reason to believe that much of this devastation will soon be behind us. And when that time comes, rest assured there will be a safe and sound plan for reopening businesses and transitioning into our “new normal”.
State leaders are hitting the ground running to do just that. Earlier today, I was proud to join Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Comptroller Glenn Hegar and other state and community leaders at our State Capitol to announce the formation of a new Strike Force to Open Texas, which I am humbled to have been named a member of.
Joined by a team of nationally-recognized medical professionals, successful entrepreneurs, renowned economists, successful small business owners, tech experts and other industry leaders, our Task Force will be working over the next few months to identify strategies for reopening our economy and returning to work in the safest way possible.
Our objective is to take a careful, phased approach to reopening businesses in order to prevent additional outbreaks and shutdowns from occurring. Not all businesses will be able to open at once. At today’s press conference, we announced an initial round of openings that would pose minimal or no threat to expanding COVID-19, with an additional round of openings expected to be announced on April 27th, depending on how well the virus is being contained at the time.
I was proud to join Governor Abbott as he issued a series of executive orders that accomplish the following:
- Permit doctors, nurses, hospitals and medical staff to resume elective medical procedures effective April 22nd.
- Allow all retail stores to offer pick-up and delivery options for customers beginning next Friday.
- Close all schools — public, private and institutions of higher education — for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, with additional guidance for closures and conducting graduation ceremonies to come from TEA Commissioner Mike Morath.
- Reopen state parks starting this Monday, April 20th, with park visitors still being required to wear face coverings or masks, limit gatherings to 5 individuals, and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other individuals.
Moving forward, our Task Force will be working around the clock to discuss the next phase of this effort, taking into consideration a number of factors including the state’s hospital capacity, status of widespread testing, the effectiveness of containment efforts, and the best practices for keeping our vulnerable population safe.
We will be considering any and all strategies that may open up Texas while also protecting its citizens from the expansion of COVID-19. Texans are known for their strength and fortitude when it comes to overcoming challenges — and working together, we’ll overcome this one, too.
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