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Governor plans to reopen state

Governor Greg Abbott at a new conference in Austin last Friday, announcing steps to re-open the state.

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott last Friday, April 17, 2020, announced initial steps to re-open the Texas economy as it continues to reel from the coronavirus pandemic.

During a news conference at the Texas Capitol, Abbott said Texans’ efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus were paying off.

“We’re now beginning to see glimmers that the worst of COVID-19 may soon be behind us,” Abbott said. “We have demonstrated that we can corral the coronavirus.”

To get the economy going again, Abbott named a “statewide strike force” chaired by James Huffines, the Austin banker and former UT regent. The task force staff will be led by Mike Toomey, a veteran lobbyist who was chief of staff to Abbott’s predecessor, Rick Perry.

Abbott offered a host of names that will advise the task force, including fellow statewide officials, top medical experts and business leaders. You can view those names — as well as Abbott’s executive order establishing the task force — here. After naming the task force, Abbott said he was issuing an executive order loosening the restrictions he previously put in place on non-essential surgeries.

Abbott also announced he was letting retail outlets re-open Friday, April 24 to offer “retail-to-go” — meaning the outlets can make deliveries to customers’ cars outside their location or to customers’ homes.

Abbott then said he’s allowing state parks to re-open Monday, April 20, but with a few requirements for visitors. Visitors have to wear face coverings, they have to keep a 6-foot distance from people outside their group, and there can’t be gatherings larger than five people.

Finally, Abbott announced that all Texas schools will remain closed through the end of the school year. The closure applies to all public and private schools and institutions of higher learning.

Abbott promised to have another announcement April 27 about additional steps to re-open Texas.