As the state moves toward reopening the economy further, it can be difficult to keep track of the guidance and information you need to keep yourself and your family safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are today’s bullet points:
- Gov. Abbott: Hair Salons, Barbershops, Nail Salons Can Open Friday
- Dallas County Commissioners Signal Support For Voting By Mail In Upcoming Elections
- TEA Announces Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremony Guidance
- U.S. Navy Blue Angels Salute Frontline Workers
Gov. Abbott: Hair Salons, Barbershops, Nail Salons Can Open Friday
Gov. Greg Abbott is moving forward with plans for reopening large parts of the economy announcing Tuesday that hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, tanning salons, and pools can open Friday with some restrictions.
The hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, and tanning salons must ensure at least six feet of social distancing between work stations. Abbott recommended people wear face masks, but stopped short of requiring it.
Gyms, exercise facilities, non-essential manufacturing services, and office buildings will be able to open May 18 at 25% occupancy with additional restrictions, including social distancing requirements. Locker rooms and shower facilities will remain closed, but restrooms may open. Office buildings specifically can also open May 18 with the greater of five or less individuals or 25% of the total office workforce.
These newly opened services are subject to recommended minimum standard health protocols outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services. These protocols will be available on the Open Texas webpage.
The announcement comes less than a week after Abbott allowed the partial reopening of malls, retail stores, movie theaters, and restaurants.
“Texas is in a position to continue opening parts of our economy because of the efforts and determination of the people of Texas,” said Abbott in a statement. “Over the past month, Texans have worked together to contain the spread of COVID-19 by following social distancing practices and staying at home whenever possible. As we move forward, I urge all Texans to continue following these social distancing guidelines and the health standards we have provided. With every Texan doing their part, we will contain COVID-19, we will unleash our entrepreneurs, and we will make it through this challenge together.”
Abbott also issued guidance for weddings. Weddings held indoors other than at a church, congregation, or house of worship must limit occupancy to 25%. Wedding reception services may also resume, but facilities must limit their occupancy to 25% of the total listed occupancy. These occupancy limits do not apply to the outdoor areas of a wedding reception or to outdoor wedding receptions, but Abbott encouraged those at risk of developing severe cases of COVID-19 to participate remotely.
Abbott added that surge response teams will serve nursing homes, prisons, packing pants, and other facilities that experience flare ups of COVID-19 by providing personal protective equipment, testing supplies, onsite staffing, and assessment assistance. These teams will also reportedly work with local officials to establish health and social distancing standards to contain the flare ups.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins spoke about Abbott’s latest order during a Tuesday news conference.
“Our understanding was we would watch… things for two weeks, and then we would look at the next things around May 18, but what we heard today is that he’s (Abbott’s) already decided what these new things are,” Jenkins said during the news conference. “I have a lot of questions. What changed in the four days when we said we were going to wait?”
He added that a team of public health experts will help provide information about when it’s safe to continue normal activities.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson issued a statement regarding Abbott’s latest announcement.
“I am concerned about the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Dallas. State law is very clear, however, that these decisions surrounding when and how to reopen our state’s economy are the governor’s to make. I remain committed to a safe and successful reopening of the Dallas economy and will continue to push for measures that will save lives as we restore livelihoods,” Johnson said. “For Dallas, Gov. Abbott’s decision means it is now more important than ever that we all take precautions, such as wearing masks in public and practicing social distancing. We owe it to each other — our friends, our neighbors, our loved ones, and even complete strangers — to continue to act responsibly during this ongoing public health crisis.“
Dallas County Commissioners Signal Support For Voting By Mail In Upcoming Elections
Jenkins said during his Tuesday news conference that the Dallas County Commissioners Court passed a nonbinding resolution signaling support for expanding voting by mail in the county during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioners voted 4-1 on the resolution, which calls for allowing Dallas County residents to claim a “disability” if they are concerned about voting in person, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Texas limits eligibity for a ballot by mail to those 65 or older, those with a disability, and those who are out of the county during an election.
The resolution came shortly after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a letter May 1 to county judges and election officials across the state warning that under the Texas Election Code, Texans can’t claim disability based on fears of contracting COVID-19 to receive a ballot to vote by mail in upcoming elections.
Paxton’s guidance said disability, as that term is used in the Texas Election Code’s provisions allowing voting by mail, must involve a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from voting in person on election day without needing assistance or of injuring the voter’s health, so someone sick with COVID-19 who meets those requirements can apply for a ballot by mail, but fear of contracting it isn’t a disability that qualifies a voter for a mail ballot.
“Mail ballots based on disability are specifically reserved for those who are legitimately ill and cannot vote in-person without assistance or jeopardizing their health. The integrity of our democratic election process must be maintained, and law established by our Legislature must be followed consistently,” said Paxton. “My office will continue to defend the integrity of Texas’s election laws.”
Jenkins addressed the resolution during his Tuesday news conference.
“What lawyers have opined is that not having any immunity to a dangerous disease that has claimed 70,000 of our countrymen in the last two months and is circulating widely through our community is a physical condition and that it’s not the mental fear of the condition that gives them the right to ask for an absentee ballot, but rather the likelihood of injury if people go into these congregant settings,” Jenkins said. “I think it’s important then that we allow people the option of not being around hundreds of strangers and not repeating the Wisconsin matter where they stood in line for hours cram packed with strangers in order to be able to vote. By the way, this is not a partisan issue. The majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents want the choice to be able to vote by mail or to be able to vote in person.”
TEA Announces Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremony Guidance
The Texas Education Agency Tuesday issued guidance for schools seeking to provide graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020 while school buildings remain closed to in-classroom instruction for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
As part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Strike Force to Open Texas, TEA is providing four different pathways for schools to celebrate their graduating seniors:
- Completely virtual ceremonies with the use of videoconference or other technologies;
- Hybrid ceremonies, which consist of a compilation of videos of students being recognized in person as they celebrate graduation in small groups;
- Vehicle ceremonies, in which students and their families wait in their cars while other graduates are recognized one at time with their families alongside them;
- Outdoor in-person ceremonies, which are permitted for counties as follows:
- Between May 15 and May 31 an outdoor ceremony may take place in a rural county that has an attestation as described in the “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas” that remains in effect seven days prior to the ceremony.
- An outdoor ceremony may take place in any Texas county on or after June 1.
“Graduation ceremonies mark a major milestone for students and their families. All educators are committed first and foremost to ensuring the health and safety of our students, families, and staff. By taking the necessary precautions developed by medical experts, we can ensure we appropriately honor our Class of 2020 graduates while keeping everyone safe,” Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said.
The full details of TEA’s graduation ceremony guidance are available here.
U.S. Navy Blue Angels Salute Frontline Workers
Lastly, we end today’s digest with an opportunity to watch the 35-minute U.S. Navy Blue Angels flyover today saluting healthcare workers and first responders.
Residents are asked to refrain from traveling to see the flyover and to maintain social distancing.
The Blue Angels will be flying over UP tomorrow! Please refer to the photo for the flight path. Residents should observe the flyover from their homes and should remember to maintain social distancing. pic.twitter.com/kZl9P0NgzB
— University Park, TX (@CityofUPTX) May 5, 2020