Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued executive orders on Friday beginning the process of reopening Texas amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today I’m issuing an executive order, an executive order that outlines how we go about opening the Texas economy, helping you return to work using the safest standards to contain the coronavirus. Now, in opening Texas, we must be guided by data and by doctors.”

Within his first executive order, Abbott established a state-wide strike force led by James Huffines including nationally recognized medical advisers and business and community leaders to oversee the safe reopening of businesses in the state. 

The reopening of the state must occur in phases to avoid spurring the spread of COVID-19, Abbott said, the first of which was announced in subsequent executive orders on Friday. 

Abbott announced all retail stores in Texas can reopen on April 24 in a “Retail-to-Go” model in which product can be delivered to consumers’ cars, homes, or other locations.

“Because we’ve seen that this model works while also containing COVID-19 we believe that all stores in Texas should be able to operate retail to go,” Abbott said. 

Additionally, state parks will be reopened as of Monday, April 20, he said. Visitors will be required to wear face coverings or masks, must maintain six feet of distance from non-household individuals and cannot gather in groups larger than five. Also within the order, Abbott announced schools will remain closed for the 2019-2020 school year. 

In another executive order, Abbott announced current restrictions on non-essential surgery will be loosened effective April 22. This will allow doctors to diagnose and treat more medical conditions without needing to get an exception, including diagnostic tests for suspected cancer. 

“Texas has plenty of hospital capacity. We have a solid supply chain of PPE and many of our doctors and nurses have patients who desperately need medical treatment," he said. "It is time to allow those doctors and nurses to return to work.”

Also within this order are provisions to enhance standards protecting vulnerable seniors in nursing homes and assisted living centers. 

The next phase in reopening the state will occur on April 27, when revised plans to open Texas will be announced based on recommendations provided by medical staff and advisers within the statewide strike force.

“The new plans will be based on how well contained COVID-19 is in the state of Texas, the plans will consider standards to protect our vulnerable residents while allowing others to increase their interactions. They will outline which practices are safe for employers to use.”

The new plans will consider the possibility of opening more venues including restaurants, movie theaters and other gathering places, that can provide safe distancing practices. Expanding elective surgeries will also be considered. 

“We will consider in fact all strategies that may open up Texas while also keeping us protected from the expansion of COVID-19,” Abbott said. 

Even more openings will be announced in May, when it is determined the infection rate continues to decline, hospital capacity continues to remain available and testing capacities are sufficient to detect and contain outbreaks of COVID-19.

“Texans are battling a colossal challenge and invisible energy 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.” 

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