Update 5.6.20: Salons, swimming pools open Friday; graduation ceremony guidance; more changes take effect May 18

Dear friend:

Yesterday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a new executive order reducing certain restrictions. Some take effect immediately, others on Friday, and others on May 18.

He was joined by Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath, who provided updates on Class of 2020 graduation ceremonies, as well as leaders of the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM), and the Texas National Guard, who provided information on mobile testing sites and the newly formed “Surge Response Teams.”

All newly opened businesses are subject to Department of State Health Services (DSHS) recommended minimum standard health protocols, which can be found on the Open Texas webpage.

As previously was the case in GA-18, counties with five or fewer active case counts can file proper attestation forms with DSHS to allow for occupancy limits of 50 percent for those facilities otherwise limited to 25 percent occupancy (see below for details regarding businesses and other publicly accessible facilities in all other counties).

Immediate changes For reopened businesses (in-store retail, movie theaters, shopping malls, dine-in restaurants, museums, and libraries), the Governor clarified that the 25 percent occupancy limit does not include employees.

Wedding venues may open immediately, with occupancy limited to 25 percent at indoor locations other than a church, congregation, or house of worship. Indoor receptions are limited to 25 percent occupancy as well.

Starting Friday

Cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops, nail salons and shops, and other establishments where licensed cosmetologists or barbers work, as well as tanning salons may open. Establishments must ensure at least six feet between work stations.Swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) may open subject to certain limitations, including on occupancy or operating levels.

Starting May 18

Office buildings may open with the greater of five or less individuals or 25 percent of the total office workforce. Physical separation following CDC guidelines is required.

Gyms, exercise facilities, and exercise classes may open at no more than 25 percent occupancy. Locker rooms and shower facilities will remain closed, but restrooms may open.

Non-essential manufacturing may resume on May 18 at no more than 25 percent occupancy.

Graduations

The TEA has developed four options for districts to celebrate high school graduation; more details may be found on the TEA website:
• Virtual ceremonies that take place entirely online 
• Small group celebrations accompanied by video compilations of students being recognized in person 
• Ceremonies in which students and their families wait in their cars while other graduates and families are recognized one at time 
• Outdoor in-person ceremonies, which are currently permitted for rural counties between May 15-31 under certain conditions described in the Governor’s Report to Open Texas, and in any Texas county on or after June 1.

“Surge Response Teams”

These teams are led by DSHS, the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), TEA, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracey Norris.

They are to serve nursing homes, prisons, packing pants, and other facilities that have been incubators for COVID-19 by providing personal protective equipment (PPE), testing supplies, onsite staffing, and assessment assistance. The teams also are to work with local officials to establish health and social distancing standards to contain flare ups stemming from these facilities, which often have not observed physical distance protocols for reducing risk of transmission, and lack PPE and testing.

You may find a presentation provided on the teams here.

These “Surge Response Teams” are very needed.

As of a week ago, there were 300 deaths at Texas nursing homes, with little information or accountability, hundreds of cases at meat-packing plants in the Panhandle, and more than 1,600 cases in the Texas prison system.
IMPORTANT REMINDERS
Click on image for more CDC informationIn El Paso, we hit record highs for hospitalizations yesterday, and the Public Health Department reported 51 new cases, bringing the total to 1,080. There are 71 patients hospitalized and 40 in ICU beds.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.”

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.

Regardless of whether the state and federal government are taking sufficient actions, you can help yourself and others.

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.

Sincerely,

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