The plan to reopen Texas businesses recently unveiled by Gov. Greg Abbott will take place in stages, with Phase 1 starting May 1. Businesses approved to reopen will be limited to 25% occupancy in their stores or face a $1,000 fine or 180 days in jail.

Referring to his earlier executive order that put stay-at-home orders in place until April 30, Abbot said, “That executive order has done its job to slow the spread of COVID-19, and I will let it expire as scheduled. Now it’s time to set a new course; a course that responsibly opens up business in Texas.


Businesses approved to reopen include all retail stores. Retailers are encouraged to dedicate certain time periods daily for at-risk customers only, and to promote contactless payments. While malls will be open, their food court dining areas, play areas and interactive displays will remain closed.


Restaurant dine-in parties are required to maintain six feet distance from other parties, including while waiting to be seated. Moreover, no more than six people will be allowed per table.


At movie theaters, customers are expected to keep at least two empty seats (six feet) between parties in a row. However, two or more members of the same party can sit next to one another. Additionally, every other row will remain empty for movie-goers.

Libraries & museums

During Phase 1, all museums and libraries can reopen under the same 25% occupancy and six feet of separation between customers guidelines, though they must keep closed any exhibits that have interactive elements, including child play areas. Locally run public museums and libraries may operate only if permitted by the local government.

Healthcare professionals

The green light has also been given to healthcare professionals to return to work with few restrictions.

“Doctors, nurses, dentists; they need to get back to work. But more importantly, patients need to get back in to see those doctors, nurses and dentists,” said Abbott, who added that all licensed hospitals must still reserve 15% capacity for COVID-19 patients.

Worship services

Churches and other houses of worship are expected to designate reserved areas for at-risk populations or offer an “at-risk only” service. As in movie theaters, worshippers are expected to keep at least two seats empty (six feet) between parties in any row, expect for members of the same household. Parishioners are also expected to sit on alternating rows. The same minimal standard health protocols (six feet separation, face coverings encouraged) apply to funerals, burials and memorials.


Non-contact, outdoor sports are allowed to resume. However, such activities can include no more than four participants at a time. Golf and tennis are okay. Basketball and football are not.


The reopen plan seeks to redouble efforts to “protect our most vulnerable senior citizens.”  During the announcement of his “reopen Texas” plan, Abbott said individuals 65 and over are “just over 20% of the Texans who test positive for COVID-19 but more than 75% of the deaths.”

Foundational to the plan is testing and contact tracers, individuals who identify those who test positive for COVID-19, contact all individuals they have been in contact with, test them, and call those who are found COVID-19 positive to self-quarantine. If testing reveals no new spikes in hospital visits and deaths, Phase 2 will begin by May 18, with businesses allowed to expand to 50% occupancy.


During Phase 1, barber shops, beauty salons, gyms and bars have been deemed unsafe, and are to remain closed, though Abbott hopes they will be able to resume their businesses by mid-May, with Phase 2.

Words of caution

Responding to Abbott’s plan, Mayor Sylvester Turner said we can’t forget about people living on the margins.

“I know people want to open up…But many of the people who live in these communities, these are the individuals who are serving the tables…working on the frontlines. And what they’re asking for, not necessarily when we are going to open, but ‘Mayor, tell me what are you going to do to keep us safe.’”

View the plan at

Opening during Phase 1, May 1

  • Retail stores
  • Restaurants
  • Movie theaters
  • Malls
  • Sole proprietors
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, dentists)
  • Non-contact sports (up to four participants)
  • Funerals, burials, memorials

Aswad Walker

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...