At an April 27 press conference, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his stay-at-home order would expire April 30, and introduced Phase 1 for reopening the Texas economy.
First to open on Friday will be restaurants, retail businesses, movie theaters, and malls, limited to 25% capacity. Museums and libraries will also be allowed to open at 25% capacity, but hands-on exhibits must remain closed for now.
Abbott added that counties with five or fewer COVID-19 cases could increase their capacity to 50% after submitting a form to the state for approval.
On May 1, churches - already opened - may expand their capacity as long as safe distancing is practiced.
Hair and nail salons, barber shops, gyms, and bars must remain closed until at least mid-May, when Abbott hopes to have those businesses up and running as long as the state doesn’t see an increase in COVID-19 cases.
He stressed that his order “supersedes all local orders.”
Abbott also noted his order “gives permission to reopen, but not a requirement,” and a business could remain closed if it chose.
Outdoor sports are allowed as long as they involve no more than four participants playing together at a time.
All licensed healthcare professionals, including dentists, can return to work, but hospitals must reserve 15% capacity for COVID-19 patients.
Testing remains a priority, and Abbott said the testing and tracing process put in place Monday could “quickly identify any flare-ups in COVID-19.”
Contact tracing team members test for those who may be infected, help isolate those who test positive, and try to locate those who have been in contact with the infected person. They then work with those who have been in contact to self-isolate for 14 days.
“The process will box in the expansion of COVID-19,” said Abbott. “This process will be bolstered by an increase in testing.”
About the controversial face mask issue, Abbott strongly recommended that people wear masks, but said “it’s not a mandate, and we made clear that no jurisdiction can impose a penalty or fine” for not wearing one.
He again stressed that his executive order supersedes all local orders.
Abbott concluded by saying if anyone didn’t feel safe venturing out, there was no requirement that those people leave their homes.
“You have control over your own personal safety, and you should use that control. If you don’t want to expose yourself, just continue to stay home,” he said.
Locally, Brewster County Judge Eleazar Cano told the Avalanche that as soon as the county’s current order expired Thursday night, the county would revert to the governor’s orders, and issue no orders of its own.
Thus, hotels, motels, and short-term rentals could reopen May 1, and the curfew now in place will expire countywide.
“We will defer to the governor’s order, and that will be the only order in place,” said Cano.
Brewster was one of only four Texas counties to close hotels and other short-term rentals.
Over the weekend, mobile coronavirus test units were set up at four locations in the Tri-County. Fifty-one were tested in Alpine, 26 in Terlingua, 64 in Marfa, and 42 in Presidio, but results were not available at press time.
The latest numbers show 300,384 Texans have been tested for COVID-19, with 26,171 testing positive, or about 8.7%, and 690 deaths, or about 2.6% of those testing positive. No cases of the coronavirus had yet been identified in the Tri-County.
In Brewster County, for the period March 29-April 24, 282 claimants were on unemployment. More than 1.3 million Texans have filed for unemployment since restrictions started.