Governor to lift some restrictions beginning Friday, superseding local orders

TEXAS – Governor Greg Abbott announced Monday that he would allow his stay-at-home order to expire and introduced a phased reopening plan that begins Friday, May 1.

Notably, the Governor announced that his order supersedes “all local orders,” putting an end to regulations like those in the City of Presidio that have required residents to wear masks.

In the tri-county, officials have previously implemented harsher regulations during coronavirus than the state has. It is unclear whether restrictions on rentals in Marfa and Presidio County would be effected since those businesses are not explicitly mentioned in the Governor’s new orders. Abbott’s order states that “local officials may enforce this executive order as well as local restrictions that are consistent with this executive order.”

The Governor’s phased plan begins with phase one on Friday, May 1. In it, the governor emphasizes that vulnerable populations, especially those over age 65, should stay home “if at all possible.”

“All retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls can reopen May 1,” Abbott said of the first phase on Friday. The order also allows museums and libraries to reopen, as long as hands-on exhibits are closed. For all businesses in phase one, Abbott said, “On the advice of doctors, occupancy is limited to no more than 25 percent.”

He called that limitation a proven business strategy, noting that HEB and Home Depot have used it.

But in communities like each of the three tri-counties, the state will potentially allow even more capacity to open in businesses. For counties in Texas with fewer than five cases recorded, 50 percent capacity is permitted at businesses. Presidio, Brewster and Jeff Davis counties meet that provision, and may submit a form to the state for approval to open at 50 percent capacity.

This is permission to open, not a requirement,” Abbott said. Businesses can stay closed on their own convictions. And on the subject of the more relaxed rules for counties with fewer than five cases, Abbott said, “If there is an outbreak, it could cause them to revert back to a more limited capacity.”

Phase one allows doctors, nurses and dentists to return to regular operations with general advice to social distance and take precautions. It allows essential businesses to continue as they have and also expands infectious disease protocols for senior living communities.

The first phase did not allow for barbershops, hair salons, bars or gyms to reopen, though the Governor said he hoped to have those up and running by mid-May.

That will all depend on the success of phase one. If the state sees a bounce in cases after phase one is in effect, that’s not enough by itself. “Just because there may be an increase in the number of people who test positive, that’s not a decisive criteria,” Abbott said. The Governor said hospitalization rates and death rates also weigh into the calculation of moving to phase two.

Phase two opens more businesses and is scheduled for May 18, pending any flare up of cases, hospitalizations and deaths that would cause the state to reconsider moving into the next phase.

“There’s a reason that not all businesses in Texas can open all at once,” Abbott said. He cited “precautionary tales” like a new growth in cases in certain parts of China and Singapore experiencing a second wave that is bigger than its first.

Defending his decision to reopen at this time, the governor pointed to his recently deployed mobile testing units run by the national guard, a new contact tracing effort and an aspirational goal to test 26,000 Texans a day as reasons it was now safer to reopen businesses in the state.

“It’s hard to get rid of this virus because it is so contagious,” Abbott said. “We’re not just going to open up and hope for the best.” He told press the phases were put in place so “we don’t have to reopen and have to close down” again, and mentioned again that present and future decisions rely on “doctors and data.”

The Governor also signed a new executive order Monday that states, “Every person who enters the State of Texas as the final destination through an airport, from a point of origin or point of last departure in the following—State of California; State of Connecticut; State of New York; State of New Jersey; State of Washington; City of Atlanta, Georgia; City of Chicago, illinois; City of Detroit, Michigan; or City of Miami, Florida—shall be subject to mandatory self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of entry into Texas or the duration of the person’s presence in Texas, whichever is shorter.”