A Start and an end

Texas businesses will begin to reopen while schools shut down



Gov. Greg Abbott arrives at a news conference on April 10 to give a coronavirus update with Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd, followed by Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt and Dr. John Zerwas, University of Texas System executive vice chancellor for health affairs. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Story by Grey Johnson, staff writer

Within months of the Coronavirus reaching American shores, it seems as though our entire country has shut down. The virus has killed more than 35,000 Americans and has economically wounded many more. Many states let out school until a certain date, but slowly that date moved further and further away. Eventually, school’s began closing altogether. Starting with Alabama, the trend of closing schools has finally reached Texas as of today.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced his plans for Texas on April 17. The plan will try to reopen Texas while remaining as safe as possible. To reach this goal, Abbott created a statewide strike force. 

“[Joined by a team of nationally recognized medical advisors, this strike force will work to] develop a medical architecture to comprehensively test and trace COVID-19,” Abbot said. “That will enable Texas to gradually and safely begin the process of returning to work and returning to other activities while we wait for the immunizations that will end the threat of COVID-19.”

The reopening of Texas will occur in stages. Not every business will be allowed to open immediately since some businesses don’t have the proper distancing standards and could possibly set Texas back even further if opened. 

The first stage will include openings announced today that should pose little to no threat to expanding the virus. The second stage openings will be announced on April 27 according to input from advisors and medical staff. The third stage will come in May when it is proven that the infection rate continues to decline, hospital capacity stays available, and when testing capacities can detect and contain virus outbreaks. 

There are multiple executive orders being signed in today. The first one establishes and organizes the strike force tasked with opening Texas. The second executive order will allow all retail stores to operate under a “retail-to-go” model next Friday. The final executive order will deal with hospitals and loosening restrictions on surgeries. Procedures can take place if they are life threatening or if they will not affect the hospital’s capacity to deal with Coronavirus. 

In addition to these executive orders, state parks will be opened next Monday to aid with citizens’ physical and mental health. However, to reduce exposure and potential of spreading the virus, visitors will be required to wear masks and maintain at least six feet between them and people who are not members of their household. Visitors also cannot gather in groups of more than five. 

Despite all of these openings, schools will remain shut down for the remainder of the current school year. Teachers can be on campus in order to provide students with video instruction, perform administrative duties or clean out their classrooms. Plans for graduation are still in consideration. 

The governor will release more plans for the future on April 27 based off of the state of the outbreak at the time. The reopening of restaurants, movie theaters and other venues that can provide safe distancing practices will be considered at that time. 

“Texans are battling a colossal challenge: an invisible enemy that has tested our lives and tested our livelihoods,” Abbott said. “Part of the Texas brand, however, is our ability to overcome challenges. We have overcome far more challenges than we can possibly count. Together, we can bend the curve. Together, we can overcome this pandemic. We can get folks back to work. We can adopt safe strategies that prevent the spread of COVID-19, and step by step we will open Texas.”