A COVID-19 committee that was formed by Parker County Judge Pat Deen at the beginning of April revealed a phase-in plan to the commissioners court Monday morning.

Following the Phase 1 guideline presented at commissioners court, Abbott issued a new executive order Monday afternoon in regard to reopening businesses, Phase 1, in Texas.

“Our goal, of course, is to get Texans back to work and that is what today is all about. My executive order to stay at home that was issued last month was set to expire on April 30. That executive order has done its job to slow the growth of COVID-19 and I will let it expire as scheduled,” Abbott said. “With my new executive order, all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls can reopen May 1. I am limiting occupancy to no more than 25 percent. This is a proven business strategy. The extent to which this order opens up businesses in Texas supersedes all local orders.”

Additionally, Abbott said all museums and libraries can also open under the same 25 percent occupancy and all hospitals must reserve 15 percent occupancy for COVID-19 patients. Abbott said his order also allows for outdoor sports as long as it involves no more than four participants playing together at one time —for example, golf or tennis.

Abbott said if Phase 1 of his order has proven to work, the second phase will expand business occupancy to 50 percent as early as May 18.

However, Abbott said for counties that have five or less COVID-19 cases as well as some other conditions can increase their capacity to 50 percent.

“A different standard can apply to counties with five or fewer cases of COVID-19. This would include almost half of the counties in the state of Texas. For those counties, they must comply with all of the safety standards outlined by the doctors, but for all business activity that have been limited to a 25 percent capacity, in the counties with five or fewer COVID-19 cases, they can increase their capacity to 50 percent,” Abbott said. “There are still some conditions that must be met for the county to qualify.”

Abbott said barber shops and hair salons, bars and gyms will remain closed after doctors’ advised they were still not safe enough to open at this time.

Abbott said a full manual will be available online for government entities to review all aspects of his new executive order.

The commissioners did not take action on the county phase-in plan and Abbott’s order will go into effect until May 1.

Parker County Economic Development Council Executive Director and committee member Patrick Lawler led the discussion Monday morning, focusing on Phase 1, which is the reopening of businesses.

But Lawler recommended the committee review Abbott’s order in full.

“The reality is we need some time. We need some time to go back and look at what the governor has presented,” Lawler said Monday morning.

“First and foremost it’s a priority to maintain the health and safety of our residents and everything is driven by that with a phased-in approach in getting our economy going, which is important,” County Judge Pat Deen said. “Today we have seven active cases with 140,000 people and information is power and we can’t make decisions without knowing how many are affected, how many are tested and now we have that data.”

As of press time Monday, Parker County had seven active COVID-19 cases and 11 pending cases.

The plan was to include three phases — businesses, gatherings and returning to normal.

“We sat down for a three-and-a-half-week period and went through how do you do each phase of the plan,” Lawler said. “Then we got a little direction from the federal plan [and] the CDC guidelines that came out a couple of weeks ago where they separated everything into a three-phase plan. We tried to build a plan with an understanding that the governor would provide some local control mechanism back to Parker County, which would give the county commissioners court the authority to move forward on that plan.”

The committee includes Lawler and five Parker County city managers — David Miller, Springtown; Bill Funderburk, Aledo; Bryan Grimes, Willow Park; James Hotopp, Weatherford; and Sterling Naron, Hudson Oaks.

Lawler said the committee worked with the local chambers of commerce to send out surveys to businesses and spoke with business owners directly, which helped in the creation of the plan.

Abbott said a second phase of business reopenings could come as soon as May 18 — as long as the state sees “two weeks of data to confirm no flare-up of COVID-19.” That second phase would allow businesses to expand their occupancy to 50 percent, according to the governor.

Lawler said they can go over the next phase, gatherings, which would include multiple steps when they get to that point in following the federal plan.

“Early on you’re probably going to see a recommendation for things like outdoor youth sports. That’s a smaller group of individuals, you don’t have thousands of people there and then you go to the far phase of that, which would be large public gatherings,” Lawler said. “Gatherings in Phase 2, it’s going to take multiple steps. So you may see the first part of that earlier from us and then you may see the second part later. That’s what the federal plan takes on in Phase 2, which is gatherings.”

Abbott said his new order “supersedes all local orders” saying those businesses must remain closed. He also said his order overrules any local government that wants to impose a fine or penalty for not wearing a mask — something the latest statewide rules encourage but do not mandate.

The commissioners are expected to meet at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

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