Governor Greg Abbott on Friday announced a plan to open up Texas, the second-largest state by population and one of the largest economies in the world. Despite initial resistance to a statewide stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic, Abbott's executive order shutting down non-essential businesses went into effect on April 2.
On Friday, Abbott announced a "strike force" of doctors, state leaders and business owners to oversee what he called a "phased" opening of the economy. Schools, however, will remain closed for the rest of the school year.
State parks will open first, on April 20, but visitors must wear masks or face coverings.
The restriction on elective surgeries is set to be lifted on April 22. Abbott said this does not include abortions. However, a federal appeals court said earlier this week that medication abortions, which involve a patient taking pills, can continue in Texas despite the state's directive to halt all pregnancy termination "not medically necessary to preserve the life or health" of the patient. Texas is that have tried to halt abortions as a non-essential medical procedure amid the pandemic.
On April 24, all retail stores can open for to-go business, but there will no indoor shopping allowed.
If the phased plan works, Abbott will announce on April 27 if he will lift the statewide stay-at-home mandate and allow restaurants, bars and theaters to open with social distancing in place.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there have been more than 17,000 cases of coronavirus in Texas, with more than 4,000 of those cases in Harris County. More than 400 people have died.
On Friday, two of the state's largest cities, San Antonio and Dallas, required all residents to wear face masks in public.