Gov. Greg Abbott issued several executive orders April 17, including one that closes all Texas schools to in-person student attendance for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, as it “would be unsafe to allow students to gather.” He noted that teachers are permitted to visit their classrooms as needed to conduct online instruction, perform administrative duties, or clean out their classrooms, but should follow social distancing guidelines. Abbott said to expect more information from Commissioner of Education Mike Morath about the closures and about conducting graduation ceremonies.
To lead the state’s overall reopening plan, the governor has formed a statewide strike force. It includes Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar. They will be advised by top state officials with medical expertise and work together “to develop a medical architecture” to trace and test COVID-19 while “gradually and safely” returning to work and other activities while a vaccine is being developed. The strike force will be chaired by James Huffines and have a full-time staff led by James Toomey.
The reopening will happen in stages, with some announced April 17 and additional ones being announced April 27 and then again in May, once the infection rate begins to decline and the state can ensure that outbreaks can be contained.
Effective April 20, state parks will be reopened. Visitors will be required to wear face coverings or masks, and practice social distancing of at least 6 feet, with gatherings limited to five people.
Effective April 22, the current restrictions on non-emergency medical procedures will be loosened, while standards for nursing homes and assisted living centers will be raised.
Effective April 24, all retail stores in Texas will be allowed to operate “retail to go,” meaning via delivery and curbside (bring it to your car) services. DSHS guidance on how to re-open safely for both employees and customers.
The statewide stay-at-home order remains in effect until April 30. Additional announcements will be made April 27.