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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott became the latest governor to start reopening his state’s economy.

During a briefing Monday in the capital flanked by fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Abbott announced that restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters, malls and museums will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity Friday and could expand to half capacity by mid-May.

Doctors and dentists can also go back to work, he said. Churches will also be allowed to expand capacity and small-group sports such as golf and tennis will be allowed, he said. Abbott said his stay-home order will expire as scheduled Thursday because it “has done its job.”

“Just as we came together to fight COVID-19, we must also come together to start rebuilding the lives and livelihoods of our fellow Texans,” Abbott said.

He noted that the state’s coronavirus infection rate had declined for the last 17 days, the state’s hospitalization rate has been steady and hospital bed capacity remained “abundant.”

Texas counties with five or fewer COVID-19 cases can reopen businesses at half capacity, Abbott said, a nod to rural areas of the state with low infection rates, although he cautioned that if infections spike, that could be limited again.

Abbott said that with the reopening, “if there is no flare up of COVID-19,” Texas will increase capacity at reopened businesses to 50% and open more mid-May, such as gyms and hair salons.

“We wanted to make sure we were able to open as quickly as possible and as safely as possible,” Abbott said.

The governor said he consulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House coronavirus task force in crafting the new rules, detailed in a manual he held up during the briefing titled, “Open Texas.”

A fraction of Texans have been tested for the virus. This week, 3,000 Texas National Guard troops were operating more than two dozen mobile testing units, Abbott said, promising increased coronavirus testing and contact tracing as the state reopens.

“We’re not just going to open up and hope for the best,” he said.

A dozen states have already started reopening for business. One Texas town outside Fort Worth reopened Friday, ahead of the governor’s briefing, stirring controversy. The mayor of the east Texas city of Beaumont had to apologize after she was caught on video last week getting a manicure in defiance of her own stay-at-home order.

Abbott has said his order will override those by local officials, but it wasn’t clear how that would play out across the state of 29 million, whose population is concentrated in a handful of cities led by Democrats.

Most major cities in Texas kept businesses closed this week, extended local stay-at-home orders and required residents to wear masks in public. Houston’s Harris County — third-largest in the country — faced a backlash to the new mask order Monday, and it and Dallas County have seen some businesses reopen despite local orders.

“We will not be able to rebuild our economy while Texans are still afraid to leave their homes,” Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia said in a statement ahead of Abbott’s briefing. “Republicans’ rush to end social distancing is dangerous and experts warn it threatens the economy in the long run. Today’s announcement is just the latest in the Republican coronavirus catastrophe.”

Source : https://www.latimes.com/california/liveblog/coronavirus-live-updates-monday-april-27

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