Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is continuing to move forward with reopening the state, allowing salons to open this week and gyms on May 18 while further relaxing restrictions on restaurants with outdoor seating.
During the news conference Tuesday, Abbott said hair and nail salons, barbers and tanning facilities can reopen to customers on Friday, May 8, provided they maintain social/physical distancing between customer stations and that those in waiting areas are either able to maintain the 6 foot distance between them or wait outside. Abbott also said that stylists and customers are strongly encouraged to wear masks while services are being performed.
The governor said gyms and other workout facilities will be allowed to open Monday, May 18, provided they operate under 25% capacity and that showers and locker rooms remain closed. Equipment must be disinfected between each use and customers are advised to wear gloves that cover their hands and fingers.
Restaurants currently operating under Phase 1 of the "Open Texas" plan are currently required to limit seating to 25% of capacity. Abbott clarified Tuesday that the stipulation applies to indoor seating only and not outdoor seating. However, restaurants must still maintain a distance of 6 feet between tables on patios. He made no reference to seating availability at restaurant bars or to conditions on the sale of alcohol at those bars.
Regarding traditional bars and pubs whose sales make up more than 51% of receipts, Abbott said he was working with business owners to find solutions to social/physical distancing inside those establishments but did not give a timeline for when they would be allowed to reopen.
Abbott said non-essential manufacturing may resume operations May 18 with the same 25% occupancy limitation imposed on other businesses. Abbott suggested staggering work groups across shifts to meet the requirement.
The governor also revealed updated statistics in the state's fight against the pandemic Tuesday saying for a fourth-straight day the number of Texans having recovered from the virus has outpaced new infections.
The governor then went on to explain one of the most important metrics he's looking at when deciding how to reopen the state is the positive test rate -- the percentage of people who test positive for the infection. With more testing being done, the raw number of positive cases is expected to rise, but the governor said the percentage of positive cases overall is going down.
That indicates a downward trend in the spread of the virus and is one of the supporting pieces of data evidence the governor is using when he decides how the state should reopen.
Abbott showed statistics Tuesday that showed on April 20 the positive test rate was 7.2% and that the rate on May 5 had dropped to 4.65%. Abbott said the current rate included clusters where areas of high exposure had been confirmed. He added that the positive test rate not only indicates 95% of people taking the tests are negative for COVID-19, but that even with the clusters included, the positive test rate was dropping.
Last week the governor held a news conference where he outlined Phase 1 of his Open Texas plan, allowing restaurants, retail businesses, movie theaters and malls to reopen provided they limit capacity to 25%.