Hair salons and barbershops can reopen Friday with social distancing restrictions in place, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday. His new order supersedes local orders.
Texas can begin allowing graduation and grade advancement ceremonies for kindergarten through high school senior classes. Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath said that social distancing measures would be needed, and drive-through or outdoor ceremonies would be options.
It has not been confirmed, but Abbott did mention there is a consideration for opening schools earlier in the fall to leave a longer period of time for winter break.
“It’s up to Texans whether or not we remain open and in fact open up even more, or alternatively, if actions need to be taken that will lead to greater containment in certain areas,” Abbott said.
Here are updates from Abbott’s news conference.
Hair, nail, tanning salons and barbershops may reopen starting Friday. One customer will be allowed per stylist. Customers may only wait inside a shop if they stay at least six feet away from others.
Reopening May 18
Gyms and exercise facilities are allowed to reopen starting May 18, but showers and locker rooms must remain closed. All equipment must be disinfected after each use. Customers should wear gloves that cover their hands and fingers while remaining at least feet apart. If you bring your own yoga mat, it must be disinfected before and after use.
Business offices may also reopen starting May 18, Abbott said. Five employees or 25% of the workforce may be present, provided that the employees maintain appropriate social distances. Abbott said the reason for the May 18 date is to allow janitorial teams time to prepare.
To be determined is the date for when bars can reopen, and it will be with 25% occupancy. If at least six feet of distance can’t be maintained, bars can use safety equipment such as plexiglass, Abbott said.
More cases of COVID-19 will happen, Abbott acknowledged.
“We are ready for that. We have teams with strategies in place,” he said.
For areas with flare-ups, surge response teams led by Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Texas National Guard and Texas Military will be sent. They will work on mitigation strategies to get the area under containment.
Weddings, funerals, memorials and burials should have accommodations for high- risk individuals, Abbott said. The standards that apply to churches, such as alternating rows and keeping at least six feet of distance between seats apply. At wedding receptions, the occupancy is the same as at restaurants, 25%.
“We strongly encourage at-risk populations to watch or participate remotely,” Abbott said.
Groups at beaches, parks, lakes and rivers, may not exceed the six-foot rule for social distancing with people outside your group, and travel is limited to five people traveling together.
Restaurants will keep occupancy of 25%, and seating outdoors holds the same distancing standards as for indoor seating.
Testing in Texas
Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt encouraged Texans to keep doing their part to reduce COVID-19’s impact.
“Keep up the good fight. Keep up social distancing. Working from home if you can. The war is not over. We’re in a different phase of this battle with the coronavirus,” he said.
“In the past two weeks, Texas has done more than half of the total testing since the pandemic began in the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “As testing and cases have increased, the hospitalization rate has remained steady while the positive infection rate has declined.”
The statewide rate of known positive infections was 4.65% on Monday.
Texas data as of Tuesday:
33,369 tested positive
15,672 active cases
More than 19,000 hospital beds are now available, including more than 2,000 in intensive care units, Abbott said. More than 6,600 ventilators are available.
Abbott said testing has gone up due to National Guard mobile sites. In Texas from March 1 through April 20, 100,000 Texans were tested. Since then, 200,000 Texans have been tested, Abbott said.
Personal Protective Equipment
Texas Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd said that the following pieces of personal protective equipment were distributed within last week to the private sector and first responders by the Texas Supply Chain Strike Force: 4.9 million masks, 265,000 face shields, 262,000 gloves,16,000 gowns, 38,000 pairs of coveralls.
The U.S. government will send Texas 750,000 collection swabs between now and June 1, Abbott said.
What’s Can Already Reopen
Abbott’s order on Friday allowed stores, malls, movie theaters and restaurants to reopen with 25% occupancy and social distancing. Movie theaters and museums have by and large remained closed so far. Beaches also reopened.
The governor has faced criticism from the right for not opening salons and barbershops sooner.
He has faced criticism from the left for opening so soon without Texas meeting important criteria: ramped up testing and contact tracing capacity and a two-week decline in COVID-19 cases. Although testing has improved, with a high of almost 30,000 tests over this past weekend.
In Abbott’s plan, looser restrictions for the opened businesses can happen as long as two figures hold true: the rates of new infections and hospitalizations are declining.