Some parts of Texas will begin to gradually reopen this week.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced a phased plan on Friday that allows for some facilities and businesses to expand operations with consideration of social distancing measures.
Abbott also named a “statewide strike force” devoted to getting the economy going again. Austin banker James Huffines will chair the task force, and veteran lobbyist Mike Toomey will lead its staff. The group will oversee what Abbott described as a phased reopening, starting Friday with additional announcements set for April 27 and sometime in May.
State parks will reopen to the public on Monday.
Visitors are required to wear facial coverings and be in family groups of no more than five individuals.
They must also maintain six feet of distance around other individuals and small groups.
Restrictions for non-essential medical procedures will be loosened on Wednesday, allowing for some surgical procedures to resume.
Retail businesses will be allowed to provide to-go-style service starting on Friday.
Customers will be able to pick up pre-purchased goods from retailers in person.
“The thing we need most is customers, but the priority is safety of course,” Houston businessman Jim “Mattress Mac” McIngvale said. Mattress Mac was appointed to the governor’s economic task force. “The governor emphasized it’s going to be a very gradual rollout.”
Abbott said he intends to announce on April 27 additional sectors of the Texas economy that may reopen with restrictions.
Some have cautioned that reopening the state prematurely could result in dire consequences.
Houston-area officials said activity should only begin to resume once a full scope of the virus in the local community can be objectively measured.
They say more tests must be performed to get an accurate assessment.
“If we take our foot off the brake, we could easily start moving back in the other direction,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
The Houston area fell further behind on testing Sunday when severe storms and hazardous weather alerts forced many of the mass pubic test sites to close before they opened for the day.
The Houston area still has not reached the peak of its COVID-19 cases, according to Baylor College of Medicine dean and infectious disease expert Peter Hotez, M.D.
Hotez says the state of Texas hit its projected peak on Sunday.
Events are quickly changing as residents now fall under a variety of stay-at-home orders based on local jurisdictions.
Fire crews turned on the horns and sirens of trucks and ambulances as they drove through neighborhoods in Friendswood on Sunday morning showing appreciation for residents’ adherence to the orders.
“They’re recognizing that what they’re doing is for the good of the city and the state and for our country,” Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department Chief Stan Kozlowski said.
Montgomery County officials revoked the county’s stay-at-home order on Friday following the governor’s announcement to start reopening the state.
Harris County’s stay-at-home order remains in effect.