The number of COVID-19 recoveries in Texas will soon exceed the number of total cases in the state, according Gov. Greg Abbott during a press conference on reopening Texas.
During a briefing on Monday, Abbott said COVID-19 in Texas "has been on the decline in the past 17 days."
He said Texas has the third most recoveries from COVID-19 in America and says the state's hospitalization rate has held steady.
"I want Texas to know they're not alone in this fight," he said.
To help, Abbott has deployed more than 3,000 members of the Texas National Guard across the state to operate 25 mobile COVID-19 testing sites. They're also running three fixed testing sites in Houston, Huntsville and Kingsville.
As many Texans know, the state's "stay-at-home" order is set to expire this Thursday.
Abbott said the executive order will be allowed to expire as scheduled, but was sure to mention that the state is not 'going to open up and hope for the best.'
He said the first phase of the state's slow reopening will begin Friday, May 1. Phase two, which will happen around May 18, will open more businesses and allow those businesses who opened in phase one to expand its operations. It will also allow the capacity limit to expand to 50 percent.
"The most important element of phase one is protecting our most vulnerable in Texas," said Abbott.
Beginning on Friday, all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, libraries and museums will be allowed to open, but the occupancy rate is capped at 25 percent.
When it comes to places of worship, Abbott said all churches can hold expanded services beginning Friday as well.
"This is permission to open, not a requirement," said Abbott.
Outdoor sports are also allowed as long as it does not involve more than four participants.
There are some businesses that doctors say are not safe to reopen yet, according to Abbott. This includes hair salons, barbershops, bars and gyms.
"My hope is that they'll open on or no later than mid-May," said Abbott.
When asked about his thoughts on those who believe the state may be reopening too early, Abbott said, "We wanted to make sure that we were able to open up as quickly as possible but as safely as possible. We would not be making a decision to open up Texas without that medical advice."
Those living in Harris County were mandated to begin wearing a mask or facial covering on Monday under Judge Lina Hidalgo's order issued last week.
During the briefing, a reporter asked Abbott about the timeline of the state's reopening process and a possible disconnect with Harris County. Abbott said, "We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask. However, it's not a mandate, and we made it clear, no jurisdiction can impose any type of penalty or fine."
Hours after Abbott made his announcement, Hidalgo sent the following statement:
"Harris County is the epicenter for the COVID-19 crisis in Texas and face coverings are one of the only weapons we have to stop the spread of the virus and reopen safely. We have a face covering order today and we'll still have a face covering order tomorrow. In practical terms, the governor's order doesn't change much because, like every order we've issued so far, we'd made it clear that the priority was education. The fine was there as a signal of how vital mask wearing is, and in many ways, the community got that message. It's been disappointing to see folks politicize public health, and I hope this means they'll go back to focusing on health and safety instead of politics. As we have in the past, we will amend this order to conform with the governor's."
Here are the previous details on this story:
Today could mean the start of big changes to your lifestyle. Here's what you can expect this week.
Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to announce phase one of his plan to reopen Texas. He will be addressing what happens when the statewide 'stay-at-home' order expires on Thursday, April 30.
Plus, additional openings and more restrictions are scheduled to be loosened by Abbott.
The governor's announcement will be at 2:30 p.m. ABC13 will stream it, and you can watch it in the video player above.
Meanwhile, in Harris County, a mandatory mask order will go into effect.
Under the order, residents 10 years old and older will be required to wear a covering. The order will last for 30 days. Coverings can be a mask, scarf, bandanna or handkerchief.
"We have to use every tool in the toolbox," said Hidalgo. "If we get complacent, people will die. Those are the stakes."
Hidalgo said the mask order will be enforced by a $1,000 fine.
Finally, in Galveston, public beaches are reopening with restrictions.
The Galveston City Council voted last week to reopen beaches for three hours each morning from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. for pedestrian exercise only. Beaches will remain closed during all other hours.