More public mixing and mingling likely as governor loosens health-related restrictions

School buildings will remain closed under what Gov. Greg Abbott is calling Phase 1 of his “Reopen Texas” plan, but his loosening of restrictions, including for restaurants and retail stores, will result in more mixing and mingling of people during the current health emergency. The new order will go into effect Friday, following the expiration of his earlier stay-at-home order on Thursday.

Some restaurant owners are hurrying to reopen, under Abbott’s reduced capacity guidelines, but others aren’t so sure. As one told The Dallas Morning News, he had concerns for his staff because, sooner or later, a customer infected with the coronavirus will walk in the door and: “You can’t eat with a mask on. You can’t drink wine with a mask on.”

Here are the main points of the governor’s order:

  • All restaurants, retail stores, shopping malls and movie theaters can reopen for on-premises services. That means restaurant dining rooms can reopen. Occupancy of restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses will be limited to 25 percent of capacity. Food courts in malls will have to remain closed. In counties with fewer than five reported COVID cases, occupancy can be 50 percent.
  • All museums and libraries also will be allowed to reopen, but interactive, hands-on exhibits will have to remain closed. Occupancy will be limited to 25 percent of capacity.
  • Outdoor sports with no more than four participants, such as golf and tennis, can resume play.
  • School buildings will remain closed.
  • Doctors, nurses and dentists can return to work.
  • Churches, synagogues and other places of worship can be open, as they already could under Abbott’s previus order.
  • Barber shops, hair salons, bars, gyms, massage parlors, tattoo parlors, bowling alleys and swimming pools will have to remain closed.
  • Distancing guidelines will have to be maintained, and Abbott strongly recommended that people wear masks in public. But the order doesn’t require masks, and it overrides any more-restrictive local orders, including local orders requiring masks or keeping the above-named business establishments closed.

Abbott wants to remove additional restrictions about May 18 and increase occupancy limits to 50 percent, but he said that will depend on how these changes work.

Here are more details.

As one restaurant owner suggests: What if you are wrong, governor?

Reopening states too early will bring deadlier outcomes, coronavirus projection models show