People all across Texas started venturing outside of their homes last week, when Gov. Greg Abbott loosened some of the societal restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Starting Friday, Texans can start making themselves a little more presentable.
Four days after Abbott allowed his statewide stay-at-home order to expire and permitted retail shops, restaurant dining rooms and movie theaters to reopen with limited building occupancies, he announced plans to further boost an economy that has been crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor said Tuesday that barbershops, salons and tanning salons will be allowed to reopen Friday with certain limitations.
Abbott also said exercise gyms, non-essential manufacturers and non-essential businesses that utilize office buildings can reopen May 18, also with restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the upper-respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“It’s up to Texans whether or not we remain open and in fact open up even more or, alternatively, if steps have to be taken that would lead to greater containment in certain areas,” Abbott said. “If Texans stop using the distancing strategies they have been using for the past month, they will cause an increase in COVID-19 transmission.”
More than 33,000 Texans have been infected with COVID-19, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), with more than 16,000 of those patients having recovered. The disease has caused more than 900 deaths among state residents.
In Houston and Harris County, officials have reported more than 7,000 COVID-19 cases with more than 2,600 recoveries. There have been 144 related deaths within the city and county.
DSHS commissioner John Hellerstedt echoed Abbott’s sentiment that there could be a surge in cases if citizens and businesses do not continue practicing good hygiene, wearing face coverings in public and adhering to social distancing guidelines that require at least 6 feet of separation between people who are not part of the same household.
“At the same time,” Hellerstedt said, “we’re going to open up Texas.”
Abbott said barbershops and salons that reopen Friday should service one customer at a time and make sure those who are waiting remain at a safe distance. The governor also said he “strongly recommends” that both customers and service providers wear masks while interacting.
Gyms that reopen May 18 must close their showers and locker rooms and limit building occupancy to no more than 25 percent, which is the same guideline that applies to the businesses that reopened last Friday. Abbott also said gym customers must wear gloves that entirely cover their hands and fingers, and that exercise facilities should disinfect each piece of equipment after each use.
The businesses and manufacturers that reopen May 18 also must limit building occupancies to no more than 25 percent, according to Abbott. He said they should consider staggering the shift times of employees and installing physical barriers between work stations, such as plexiglass shields, if necessary.
Abbott said a plan to safely reopen Texas bars remains in the works. Bars that sell food have been permitted to operate along with restaurants.
“We know customers like it. We know bar owners desperately need to open up for them to have some level of income so they can pay their bills,” Abbott said. “The fact is, we’re still working on ways to establish safe distancing at bars.”
For more details on Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas and specific guidelines for businesses and customers, visit https://gov.texas.gov/organization/opentexas.