Facing lawsuits from conservatives and faith leaders over Texas' lockdown measures, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott rolled out plans for a Lone Star State reopening on Friday, making Texas first in the nation to announce activation of President Donald Trump's Reopening America Again Phase I.
Abbott's ambitious plan includes opening state parks Monday, while adhereing to White House coronavirus task force Phase I guidelines of social distancing, limiting gatherings to five or less, and still calling for face coverings to help minimize exposures, the U.K.'s Dail Mail reported.
"Understand this: Opening in Texas must occur in stages," Abbott announced, per the report, saying schools will remain closed for the remainder of the spring. "Obviously, not all businesses can open all at once on May 1.
"Some businesses, if fully open, without better distancing standards, would be more likely to set us back, rather than to propel us forward."
The phases of Texas' plan includes permitting hospitals resuming elective surgeries Wednesday, April 22, if they can maintain COVID-19 patient capacity, reserving 25% of its beds for the infected, and keeping them away from the uninfected hospital visitors.
Then, next Friday retailers can reopen, providing that they are able to deliver goods or services to homes, per the report.
"A more strategic approach is required to ensure that we don't reopen only to have to shut down once again," Abbott said, adding an announcement of a reopening advisory panel that will include medical and economic experts.
Texas has a population of 29 million, but has just 17,760 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 439 deaths, according to Worldometers data culled from Johns Hopkins University and recent media reports.
Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton were recently sued by a group of conservative activists and pastors for "imposing draconian, unconstitutional requirements" on Texans over the stay-at-home order, reports the Houston Chronicle.
"Once government and its constituents start operating on the basis of fear rather than facts, they are willing to take whatever medicine is prescribed, no matter how harmful the side effects may be," the suit said, according to the Chronicle.
"Churches and small businesses are shut down, and Texans right to move about freely is restricted. For all practical purposes, the governor’s executive order constitutes a 'lock-down,'" it read.
Even as Texas advances an ambitious reopening timeline, some states, like hard-hit New York, are extending their state lockdowns until mid-May as they evaluate a phased restart.
In multiple states, including Idaho on Friday, hundreds and even thousands of people have begun protesting the strict stay-at-home orders of their state leaders with marches on their capitals.
Newsmax writer Solange Reyner contributed to this report.
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