Saying "it's up to Texans whether or not we remain open or in fact, open up even more," Gov. Abbott Tuesday announced further loosening of COVID-19 restrictions: most immediately opening up tanning bed salons, barber shops, hair and nail salons and by May 18 okaying gyms and exercise facilities to reopen, albeit with no access to showers or lockers.
As long as non-essential businesses follow the same precautions as essential businesses have, Abbott believes they can open and continue to operate while containing the spread of COVID-19.
Still, however, even a governor as gung ho to get back to normal business operations as Abbott couldn't give the go-ahead to bars. He invited bar owners to work with his administration to figure out a way to possibly reopen given that the whole idea of bars is to bring people together, not require them to social distance themselves.
And he said that if positive cases and COVID-19 deaths spike again, then actions might have to be taken to lead to more restrictions in certain areas. "It could lead to some counties having to impose stricter standards."
Admitting "we're not quite there yet," Abbott said the amount of coronavirus testing in Texas has ramped up especially in recent weeks.
In announcing his "clarifications and modifications," Abbott said for funerals, memorials, burials and weddings "they are all treated the same as church services" with social distancing seating requirements. He added that "We strongly encourage at risk populations to try to watch or participate remotely," adding that almost 75 percent of the deaths in Texas due to COVID-19 were people aged 65 and older.
He also recommended that the provider of services set aside a designated seating area for the at-risk population.
Wedding receptions should use the same type of practices used by restaurants including restricting the number of guests to 25 percent of normal occupancy with tables six feet apart.
Beaches. lakes, rivers and river rafting are to be treated with the same standard as parks which means maintain separation.
Beginning Friday, May 8, cosmetology salons, barber shops, hair salons, nail salons and taning salons can open. Restrictions include one customer per stylist unless a customer is waiting for service. The waiting customer must wait outside unless there is six feet of social distancing inside.
Also starting May 8, swimming pools may open with restrictions on their occupancy level.
Beginning Monday, May 18, gyms and exercise facilities can open to 25 percent capacity. "For the initial time period, showers and locker rooms must remain closed," Abbott said. Good news: the restrooms at these facilities may open. All equipment must be disinfected after each use and customers should wear gloves that cover the whole hand and fingers.
Also beginning May 18, office buildings may open with 25 percent of the total office workforce and with social distancing. In areas where that isn't possible, Abbott suggested plexiglass barriers should be placed between workers. He also suggested staggered work shifts so everyone isn't funneling through the same door to come to work.
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath spoke about how 2020 graduation ceremonies may be carried out by Texas School districts. They would include:
Completely virtual ceremonies that take place entirely online, with the use of videoconference or other technologies.
Hybrid ceremonies, which consist of a compilation of videos of students being recognized in person as they celebrate graduation in small groups.
Vehicle ceremonies, in which students and their families wait in their cars while other graduates are recognized one at time with their families alongside them.
Outdoor in-person ceremonies, which are currently permitted for counties as follows:
Between May 15 and May 31, an outdoor ceremony may take place in a rural county that has an attestation as described in the Governor’s Report to Open Texas that remains in effect 7 days prior to the ceremony.
An outdoor ceremony may take place in any Texas county on or after June 1.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.