Update 4.28.20: Movement restrictions ease starting Friday; Texas needs more testing

Dear friend:

Yesterday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he is allowing his Stay Home order to expire on Friday, and released the Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas. The report includes removing some restrictions that were implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19.

These new executive orders, which take effect Friday and will be evaluated by May 18, supersede all City and County Stay Home, Work Safe orders, such as the requirement to wear a mask in public. [Executive Order GA-18]

· Retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and malls can open but are limited to 25 percent capacity. In malls, food courts, play areas, and interactive displays and settings must remain closed.

· State museums and libraries will open subject to the 25 percent occupancy restriction. Local museums and libraries may open if allowed by local government. Interactive areas must stay closed.

· Churches and places of worship remain open.

· Outdoor sports are allowed to resume so long as no more than four participants are playing together at one time (for example, tennis or golf).

· Public swimming pools, bars, gyms, hair salons, barbershops, massage establishments, interactive amusement venues, such as bowling alleys and video arcades, and tattoo and piercing studios must remain closed.

· Nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities must remain closed to visitors unless to provide critical assistance. The Governor’s Report also outlines a longer-term mitigation plan for nursing homes in Texas.

· Counties with five or fewer laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 may increase occupancy limits to 50 percent for restaurants, retail, shopping malls, museums, libraries, and movie theaters if they meet certain criteria.The order references the Department of State Health Resources (DSHS) minimum standard health protocols, both general and industry-specific. These protocols are outlined in the Open Texas Checklists within the Governor’s Report beginning on page 20.


Under Executive Order (GA-19), also issued yesterday:

· All licensed doctors, dentists, and other health care professionals may re-open their offices and provide a full range of services subject to any emergency rules promulgated by their respective licensing agencies setting minimum standards for safe practice during the COVID-19 disaster.

· Hospitals may resume all surgeries, including elective procedures, as long as at least 15% of hospital capacity is reserved for treatment of COVID-19 patients.Although I am appreciative of his phased approach, I am concerned that the governor is moving too quickly given that the state is still struggling to build testing capacity and lacking sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and other protections for workers.
Medical experts have made it clear that we must “test a larger percentage of the state’s population, isolate those who test positive, track down their contacts and order those people to quarantine themselves for two weeks.” With barely one percent of Texans tested, Texas still ranks near the bottom for testing.

Yesterday, the governor said his testing goal for early May is 25,000 tests per day. However, this is not nearly enough. According to the Harvard Global Health Institute, we should have at least 45,000 tests per day before we can reopen safely.

In addition to testing, we must make sure workers are protected. Many frontline health care workers still don’t have adequate PPE. As retail, restaurants, and other businesses open, many don’t have the ability to provide face coverings, gloves, or the physical space to ensure distancing.

Unfortunately, these workers are put in a position where they will need to choose between a paycheck and their family’s personal safety.
The governor should make sure we have enough PPE as well as protections for our workers like paid sick leave. We must remember that workers are the backbone of our economy. We cannot protect our economy without protecting them. That means ensuring all Texans are safe and healthy.

I urge everyone to continue to exercise caution and limit exposure to those not in your household as much as possible. When in public or at work, please follow CDC guidelines, including wearing face coverings, maintaining a distance of six feet or more, and washing hands frequently.

We all want to get back to normal — back to work, school, and our friends and families — but we need to do it safely.


José Rodríguez
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