As more businesses begin to reopen, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said child care is essential and announced that providers would be allowed to reopen immediately.
The governor also said at a news conference Monday that bars would be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity starting Friday. Restaurants will be allowed to expand to 50% then, too, he said. These limits will not apply to outdoor patios where customers can maintain safe distances.
The reopenings come with a number of restrictions. For instance, customers at bars will have to be seated and won’t be able to order from or sit at the bar itself. Tables will be restricted to six people and dancing will be discouraged.
Abbott said camps and sports activities, including professional sports (without fans), will be able to resume May 31. Schools can reopen for summer classes as soon as June 1, he said.
While the Texas unemployment rate was the lowest among large states, the governor said it is still too high.
“The reason why the unemployment rate is where it is is because of the businesses that were shut down,” he said. “The best thing that we can do is continue to open up.”
He also stressed that the reopening will work only if Texans continue to take safety measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including wearing face coverings, social distancing and frequent hand-washing.
Other state leaders echoed that sentiment.
“The reality of it is Texans have to feel safe and confident for those businesses to flourish in the way the governor and the rest of us desire,” Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said.
Abbott said reopenings in El Paso, Randall, Moore, Potter and Deaf Smith counties would be delayed by a week, however, because of concerns about the number of cases and hospitalizations.
Abbott said his decisions were "unanimously" supported by his team of medical experts. He pointed to a decline in the number of hospitalizations statewide and a decline in the percentage of positive tests for coronavirus.
From the beginning, he said, "our mission has been to use data and doctors to open Texas in a safe and responsible way."
Monday was the first day gyms, offices and nonessential manufacturers are allowed to reopen across Texas. Locker rooms and showers at gyms must stay closed, and equipment must be disinfected after each use.
Texas has seen a notable increase in the number of coronavirus tests being reported by the Department of State Health Services over the past week. The state may be overstating its ability to test for the virus, however, though it's not clear by how much.
This story has been updated.
Stephanie Federico contributed to this report.
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