AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As the debate wages on about how to safely reopen Texas businesses, Gov. Greg Abbott’s next public set of announcements comes Monday afternoon.
Abbott’s press conference will take place at 2 p.m. CDT from the Texas Capitol.
His press conference will be streamed in this article and KXAN’s Facebook page.
In the briefing, Abbott is expected to update Texans on “continued safe and strategic reopening” of businesses and the state’s economy, according to an advisory.
Under the Governor’s plan, employers and employees should implement screening measures as more Texans return to work.
As outlined in Abbott’s updated guidance, gyms will be allowed to reopen on Monday, with certain conditions explained on the Governor’s “Open Texas” website, starting at 25% occupancy. Those guidelines include proper social distancing and sanitizing. Customers should wear gloves while using equipment. Locker rooms and showers will not yet be allowed for reopening Monday. Manufacturers that closed under Abbott’s previous orders will be allowed to reopen Monday as well, at 25% capacity and using staggered staffing to limit interaction. State parks are set to begin honoring reservations starting Monday.
Abbott has stated multiple times this month his team is working with bar owners and health experts to identify safe ways to soon allow for bars to reopen. Some bars owners participated in soft reopenings over the weekend to prepare for the green light from the state. The Texas Restaurant Association indicated Monday morning it anticipated some sort of announcement about the status of bars in the state during Abbott’s briefing.
Gov. Abbott faces pressure on two fronts. Some Texans want him to open more businesses faster. Last week, tattoo artists and bar owners held rallies outside the Capitol calling on Abbott to let their businesses reopen. On the same day, a different group demonstrated outside the Governor’s Mansion, laying body bags near the front gate. Their message was that opening too soon could lead to more COVID-19 deaths in Texas.
“The Governor is in a tough situation,” explained James Dickey, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. “There are some people who won’t be happy until there’s an unlimited opening of everything with no limit, and there are other people who will be unhappy if anything every opens up.”
A poll by Nexstar Media and Emerson College showed many Texans are not comfortable returning to normal life as businesses reopen. Even with distancing precautions in place, 68% of Texans polled said they would not feel comfortable going to gyms yet. Nearly 60% said they would not feel comfortable going to restaurants.
“It obviously impacts the economy greatly,” said Emerson College Polling Director Spencer Kimball. “If you have 60% of people saying they’re no longer are comfortable going to a restaurant, just think about all of those jobs that aren’t going to be there when this epidemic is over.”
Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Abbott’s approval rating is 54%, according to a Nexstar/Emerson College poll.
On April 27, Abbott announced Phase One of his plan, opening restaurants and retailers, which took effect May 1, with a potential to move to Phase Two “as early as May 18,” if Texans can “contain the spread of COVID-19 during that time period.
“We need to see two weeks of data to confirm, no flare up of COVID-19,” Abbott said April 27, encouraging Texans to keep up social distancing.
On May 5, four days into his Phase One plan, Abbott announced expanded rules for hair salons, nail salons, and updated guidance for school graduations.
Abbott said that day the moist important factors for him include means and averages, rather than individual day-to-day spikes. “We’re going to be testing a lot more people,” he explained, “a lot more people are going to test positive, there could very well be the need for more people needing hospitalization.”
“What matters is not how many people are hospitalized,” Abbott said. “What matters is what our hospitalization capacity is.”
As of May 17, Texas had a total of 1,512 people hospitalized. Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services indicated 17,390 hospital beds were available, with 1,832 ICU beds and 5,797 ventilators.
The 7-day average positive test rate is 4.66%. According to an analysis of the state data, 57.70% of all cases have recovered, 39.51% are active and 2.80% have died.