Gov. Abbott Closes Schools For Rest of Year, Re-Opens State Parks And Says It's Time For Retail-To-Go

Do as I say, not as I do: Texas leadership with no masks and closer than 6 feet apart.
Do as I say, not as I do: Texas leadership with no masks and closer than 6 feet apart.

Gov. Greg Abbott, vowing to re-open the Texas economy in a way that will still be safe and healthy for its residents announced at Friday's noon press conference that he was ordering all public, private and higher education schools closed for the rest of this school year.

At the same time, he is ordering that state parks be reopened as of Monday, April 20, given that all visitors will wear masks and keep a minimum of six feet away from other people — strategies he and other state leaders did not avail themselves of at the press conference.

He said by April 27 he will announce whether he will extend his stay at home order past April 30. At that time he said up for consideration will be an order allowing restaurants to offer dine-in service again and for movie theaters to re-open.

"We're  beginning to see glimmers that the worst of COVID 19 may soon be behind us," Abbott said. He has assembled a Strike Force of advisers to consider what should be done next. Houston's Tilman Fertitta and Jim "Mattress Mack" McInvale were both named to the advisory team.  James Huffines, most recently the chariman of the board of Dallas-based Southwestern Medical Foundation, will chair the Strike Force board.

Among the orders signed today and effective April 22, Abbott loosened restrictions on certain types of medical procedures and surgeries — which still apparently does not include abortion operations — for such things as diagnostic tests for cancer. A hospital must make sure that any such procedure does not impinge on its ability to handle COVID-19 patients in any way.

As of Friday April 24, more retail businesses will be able to open up as long as they offer pickup or delivery services only.

Acknowledging that there may be a resurgence of COVI-19 cases if his stay-at-home order is lifted, Abbott said he believes Texas will be able to contain thevirus, adding:

"If a spread arises in a particular community there may be a need to have a stricter standard for that one community instead of statewide."

The Strike Force committee makeup:

James Huffines will lead the advisory strike force and Mike Toomey will serve as Chief Operating Officer. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Comptroller Glenn Hegar will serve as consulting members.

In addition, Governor Abbott has appointed Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, as Chief Medical Officer of the strike force. Dr. Hellerstedt will be supported by three Chief Medical Advisors:

John Zerwas, MD, Executive Vice-Chancellor for Health Affairs at the University of Texas System

Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner and U.S. Medicaid and Medicare Administrator

Parker Hudson, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Dell Medical School and program director for the Internal Medicine Residency

These health experts will develop a medical architecture to comprehensively test and trace COVID-19 that will enable Texans to gradually and safely begin the process of returning to work and other activities.

The medical team will work alongside a Special Advisory Council who will share innovative ideas to help businesses strategically reopen while containing the spread of COVID-19. The council consists of 39 business leaders representing the state's regions and industries. The advisory council will collaborate with working groups to devise strategies, statewide standards, and appropriate time frames to reopen the Lone Star State while prioritizing the health and safety of all Texans.

The strike force will immediately begin providing input on potential additional openings of activities and services in Texas consistent with guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Governor will announce a revised plan for the state based on these initial recommendations on April 27.

Special Advisory Council members include:

Arcilia Acosta: President and CEO, CARCON Industries & Construction

Paul Andrews, Jr.: Founder and CEO, TTI Inc.

Mark Bivins: Rancher, partner in Corsino Cattle Company

Kathy Britton: CEO and Owner, Perry Homes

Brad Brookshire: Chairman and CEO, Brookshire Grocery Co.

J. Bruce Bugg, Jr.: Chairman, Texas Transportation Commission

Alonzo Cantu: President & CEO of Cantu Construction

Bobby Cox: Owner and operator, Bobby Cox Companies, Inc.

Adriana Cruz: Executive Director, Economic Development & Tourism Division, Office of the Governor

Michael Dell: Chairman and CEO, Dell Technologies

Scott Dueser: Chairman, President & CEO, First Financial Bank

Don Evans: Chairman of the President George W. Bush Foundation, Chairman of Permian Strategic Partnership

Tilman Fertitta: Chairman, CEO, and sole owner, Landry's, Inc.

Richard Fisher: Senior Advisor, Barclays and Former President & CEO, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Rick Francis: Chairman of the Board, WestStar Bank Holding Company, Inc.

Printice Gary: Founding Partner/Principal and CEO, Carleton Companies

Brad Heffington: Owner of Heffington Farms, Inc. and Triple T Irrigation, Inc.

Jeffery D. Hildebrand: Executive Chairman and Founder, Hilcorp Energy Company

Nancy Kinder: President & CEO, Kinder Foundation

Tom Luce: Founder and Chairman, Texas 2036

Marc McDougal: CEO, McDougal Companies

Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale: Owner, Gallery Furniture

Drayton McLane: Chairman, McLane Group

Elaine Mendoza: Founder, President & CEO of Conceptual MindWorks, Inc

Balous Miller: Owner, Bill Miller Bar-B-Q Restaurants

Carla Moran: Ramar Communications

Dennis Nixon: CEO and Chairman of International Bank of Commerce

David Oliveira: Partner at Roerig, Oliveira & Fisher, L.L.P.

Ross Perot, Jr.: Chairman, The Perot Group

Kevin D. Roberts, Ph.D.: Executive Director, Texas Public Policy Foundation

Robert B. Rowling: Owner and Chairman, TRT Holdings, Inc.

Kendra Scott: Founder and CEO, Kendra Scott

Robert F. Smith: Founder, Chairman & CEO, Vista Equity Partners

Sam L. Susser: Chairman of BancAffiliated, Inc.

Massey Villarreal: CEO and President, Precision Task Group, Inc.

Kirk Watson: Founding Dean of the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs

Marc Watts: President, The Friedkin Group

Graham Weston: Former Chairman of Rackspace Hosting Inc.

Sanjiv Yajnik: President of the Financial Services Division, Capital One