Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday he would be issuing an executive order next week that will address reopening businesses while maintaining health and safety as the number of cases of the novel coronavirus continues to rise in Texas.
“We will focus on protecting lives while restoring livelihoods. We can and we must do this. We can do both: expand and restore the livelihoods that Texans want to have by helping them return to work,” Abbott said from the Texas Capitol.
When asked whether most Texans will have to have been tested for COVID-19 in order to go back to work, Abbott said testing would be an aspect, but that more details would come next week.
“I will tell you that testing will be a component of it. And we will operate very strategically. We want to open up. But we want to open up safely, knowing that if we do it too fast without the appropriate strategies, it will just lead to a potential closure because of His announcement comes amid record job losses. According to figures released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday, more than 761,000 Texans have filed for unemployment in the past four weeks — more than the total number of claims filed in the state for all of 2019.
On a call organized by the Republican Party of Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Friday he wants Texas to be ready to revitalize the economy as soon as feasible, and pointed to the first week of May as a possible date — the same time that Abbott’s current executive order requiring Texans to stay home unless participating in activities deemed “essential” by the state is set to end.
“There’s no question, we’re not going to open up everything immediately. But it will be done in phases. But we need to get started, and I hope that’s the first week of May, barring any unforeseen big spikes here in Texas and some other states around the country,” Patrick said on the call. “Obviously, New York won’t be ready to do that.”
Abbott said previously his statewide orders may be extended based on the spread of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of federal officials. When asked about Patrick’s timeline of early May, Abbott said the desire for Texans to return to work must be balanced with measures to keep people safe.
“Understandably, if everyone were to rush the doors and go back into the job market overnight, we would see an outbreak of COVID-19 again,” Abbott said. “That’s exactly why I’m issuing the executive order next week establishing what the statewide standards will be in the coming days about what the approach is.”
Abbott said the order has been crafted with input from the White House and federal officials to ensure it meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.
As of Friday afternoon, the Texas Department of State Health Services was reporting nearly 116,000 Texans had been tested, with 11,671 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 1,532 Texans were currently hospitalized and there had been 226 COVID-19 related deaths. An estimated 1,366 Texans had recovered — meaning people who had previously tested positive had gone at least two weeks of being COVID-19 free, Abbott said.