AUSTIN, Texas (KLTV) - During his press conference Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, and tanning salons may reopen on Friday if they adhere to the state guidelines that are designed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Abbott held the press conference in the auditorium of the State Capitol on Tuesday.
According to the governor, employees at the businesses and their customers are strongly urged to wear face masks and practice social distancing as much as possible when they are interacting with each other. Abbott also said that these businesses should operate by appointment only and that employees of the businesses should only work with one customer at a time.
Abbott encouraged people to wait outside in their vehicles if at all possible. He added that if people feel the need to wait inside the business, they need to practice social distancing and stay at least six feet apart from each other.
The governor stressed that owners of hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, and tanning salons have the option of reopening on Friday. Adding that he understands that some business owners may not feel safe about reopening, Abbott said they aren’t required to re-open on that date
Later in the press conference, Abbott said that he has been talking to healthcare experts and the owners of Texas gyms and yoga studios. He said these fitness-related businesses may re-open on May 18 if they work under the state-mandated constraints. Gyms and yoga studios will be allowed to open to 25 percent of their capacity. However, their showers and locker rooms must remain closed.
Abbott said gym owners and managers will be required to sanitize their facilities before and after they open each day.
Non-essential manufacturing businesses and firms that operate in office buildings have the option of reopening on May 18 as well, Abbott said. They are allowed to have the greater of five workers or 25 percent of their employees working at one time. They will also be required to maintain social distancing as much as possible. If the employees aren’t able to stay six feet or more apart, the businesses will be required to add safety measures like Plexiglass screens between work stations.
Abbott also recommended that these businesses work on staggered shifts so that not all of their employees are working at the same time.
Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath also spoke about graduation and end-of-year ceremonies for public school students. He said these types of ceremonies will be allowed if the school districts follow certain constraints.
Morath said that many Texas school superintendents have already been planning “virtual” graduation ceremonies where students are photographed and videoed as they receive their diplomas. Then the idea is that all those clips will be edited together for one live stream of the graduation ceremony. The TEA commissioner also said that outdoor graduation ceremonies like the one that was recently held at the U.S. Air Force Academy as long as those in attendance maintain social distancing. He also suggested drive-up graduation ceremonies.
Morath said alternatives ways of viewing these graduation ceremonies should be provided for people in the at-risk groups like those 65 and older, people with pre-existing health conditions, or those with suppressed immune systems.
For graduation requirements for members of the Class of 2020 and guidelines on how to handle graduation and end-of-the-year ceremonies, click this TEA link.
Abbott also provided some clarification to his previous executive order, which started the process of re-opening Texas. He said that funerals, memorials, burials, and weddings are all treated the same as church services. He said there should be limited seating arrangements like only allowing people to sit in every other row and having every household group sit apart from each other.
For wedding receptions, the venues must only allow 25 percent of their capacity and arrange the tables, so they’re at least six feet apart. No more than six people will be allowed to sit at each table, Abbott said.
The governor strongly urged people who are in the at-risk groups to find alternate ways of viewing these types of ceremonies. He added that almost 75 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the state of Texas have been people who were 65 or older.
Abbott said he and his team will be looking at a number of factors over the next few weeks to determine if they should proceed with the process to re-open Texas or go back to the more strict constraints that were previously in place. He said a total of 427,210 people have been tested for the COVID-19 virus. Of that number, 33,369 have tested positive for the virus, and 1,888 people have been hospitalized. A total of 906 Texans have died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Texas, 16,791 people have fully recovered from the coronavirus, Abbott said.
When the pandemic started, about 10 percent of the people who were tested for COVID-19 tested positive, Abbott said. When he made his announcement about re-opening Texas last week, that number was at about 4.6 percent. It was at 4.65 percent yesterday, he said.
The governor said he and his team will be looking at the number of people who have to be hospitalized. He added they will also be watching to see if the number of people who test positive gets close to or higher than 10 percent for a sustained period of time, they may have to readdress the issue and consider bringing back the more strict requirements like the stay-at-home order and the closure of non-essential businesses.
Abbott cautioned that as more and more Texans are tested for the COVID-19 virus, more and more people will test positive. He said that if they see spikes in certain Texas counties associated with nursing homes, manufacturing plants, or meat packing facilities, they will send out special teams consisting of healthcare professionals and Texas Army National Guard personnel to try to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus at those locations by testing all residents and employees, segregating healthy people from individuals who tested positive for the coronavirus, and helping with sanitizing efforts.
Along with the governor, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) Chief Nim Kidd, Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson, and Major Gen. Tracy Norris, the Texas Adjutant General, also spoke at the press conference.