Coronavirus Update 4.17.20: Preparing to loosen “stay home” restrictions

Dear friend:

While we are still in the initial response phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, it makes sense to begin planning for how we emerge to eventually fully reopen society.

Today, the Governor publicly announced steps the state will take to begin easing the public safety protocols that have lowered the infection rate and kept most hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Those steps include an order creating the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas. This Strike Force is made up of a Special Advisory Council of business leaders and working groups for education, workforce, health care, and more.

He also issued two other orders.

First, all public and private schools and higher education institutions stay closed for this school year. State parks open for day use starting Monday (although Franklin Mountain and Hueco Tanks state parks remain closed pending more information on local spread), and “to-go” retail activity is allowed starting next Friday, as long as public activities follow federal guidelines, such as wearing masks, washing hands often, and maintaining personal distancing.

The order, effective until April 30, may be found here.

The second order allows hospitals to resume some procedures – such as biopsies and surgeries for cancer – that had been suspended to prevent spread and to preserve space and equipment such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Those procedures are only allowed under the order if they “would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster” and the licensed health care facility where the procedure takes place “has certified in writing to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission both:

“(1) that it will reserve at least 25% of its hospital capacity for treatment of COVID-19 patients, accounting for the range of clinical severity of COVID-l9 patients; and

“(2) that it will not request any personal protective equipment from any public source, whether federal, state, or local, for the duration of the COVID 19 disaster.”

That order may be found here.

We will get back to working, playing, and living together. As we do, we must ensure that we don’t set the stage for a new wave of coronavirus spread, which would not only sicken and kill people but would damage the economy further. Without a healthy workforce – especially the farmworkers, grocery store and restaurant workers, delivery drivers, and health care professionals who we depend on for critical services to get us through this crisis – there is no viable economy.

We are facing an urgent situation with COVID-19, but I am confident that our strong, resilient community will meet and ultimately overcome the challenge together. My office will continue working to support community needs, whether through constituent services; volunteering to take calls for the Texas Workforce Commission, which is trying to process more than one million applications; or developing and sharing information about resources. As always, do not hesitate to contact us for assistance.


José Rodríguez

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