AUSTIN, Texas -- During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that "cosmetology salons, barbershops, hair salons, nail salons and tanning salons" may reopen this Friday, May 8 under certain restrictions.
Hair stylists will be able to only work with one customer at a time. People waiting in barber shops will have to maintain 6-foot separation or wait outside. He recommended salons use an appointment system only and that stylists and customers wear masks.
On May 18, Abbott said gyms can start letting in a limited number of customers who must wear gloves and maintain six feet of distance. Gyms can only operate at a maximum of 25% of capacity. Showers and locker rooms must remain closed, and equipment must be disinfected after each use.
Abbott also announced two other kinds of re-openings for May 18. He said office buildings can open with either five or fewer workers or 25% of the workforce, whichever is greater. Manufacturers that have been deemed nonessential can also reopen May 18, as long as they limit their occupancy to 25%.
While Abbott didn't mention pools at the news conference, he said he was allowing them to reopen in a statement released later. His executive order says pools will be limited to 25% capacity, and "local public swimming pools may so operate only if permitted by the local government."
The moves come only a week after Abbott began easing restrictions on restaurants and retail stores, and he appeared to be moving faster than he suggested last week when he allowed stay-at-home-orders in Texas to expire.
He fired back at criticism over whether Texas is moving too fast during a news conference at the Texas Capitol, at one point rattling off a list of experts he says he has consulted with in making decisions, including Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force.
“How do I know that we are on an adequate trajectory, and this plan fits on that trajectory? Dr. Birx herself has said it,” Abbott said. “There’s always going to be a difference of opinion among doctors. Just like all of these experts said Texas was going to have all these massive deaths, it was going to have a high-water mark of 260 deaths per day. Never turned out to be true.”
Texas has 33,369 cases and at least 906 deaths linked to the virus as of Friday, and the virus is present in 216 out of the state's 254 counties. Abbott has emphasized that he is most closely watching the hospitalization rates in Texas that have remained steady and infection rates that are now below 5% in Texas, which is down from more than 7% two weeks ago.
The total number of tests conducted in Texas stands at 427,210, Texas Department of State Health Services figures show.
While the state's testing numbers are increasing, "we're not quite there yet," Abbott said, expressing hope that forthcoming federal assistance, as well as state efforts like National Guard mobile testing teams, would further ramp up testing. He continued to focus on infection and hospitalization rates, noting they are holding steady or on a downward trend.