Movie theaters can reopen in Texas.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced at a press conference Monday that cinemas in the Lone Star State will be allowed to open again starting Friday, May 1.
Retail stores, restaurants, and malls will have permission to open their doors as well.
There will be restrictions, however. Businesses can only operate at 25 percent occupancy as part of “phase 1.” Some types of businesses where customers tend to have close contact with each other and employees — such as barbershops, salons, gyms, and bars — will remain closed for now.
If successful, businesses can increase their occupancy to 50 percent for phase 2 on May 18.
It’s not entirely clear what constitutes “successful” in this context. But given that the average incubation period for COVID-19 is roughly six days, if there is a surge of new infections in Texas there should be some signs by the time phase 2 is set to begin. Despite being the country’s second-most populous state, Texas currently ranks 10th in its number of coronavirus cases.
Other states have started to reopen businesses as well, such as South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Alaska. But Texas is the largest, home to 29 million people, and nonessential businesses have been shuttered since April 1.
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“I believe we can re-engage our economy while using the same strategies we’ve been using,” Abbott said, according to KXAN. “They’re working on a testing and tracing strategy that will outline exactly how we’re going to go about the process of doing what is needed to be able to monitor our communities for any potential expansion of COVID-19… It’s time to start to reopen Texas… We are Texans. We got this.”
Health experts have cautioned, however, that reopening movie theaters and other businesses too quickly could result in a devastating second wave of COVID-19 infections. In addition to the virus’s widely documented dangers, the relatively new disease still has many unknown factors, such as the potential for long-term health effects for survivors. Also, there still isn’t a proven treatment for the disease, though many existing drugs are undergoing trials in hospitals around the world. Texas also lags behind many other states when it comes to testing, critics say.
The closure of movie theaters has been devastating for the entertainment industry and resulted in an estimated $400 million in domestic box office losses. Still, there is no guarantee theaters will actually opt to reopen. According to Variety, even though Georgia allowed theaters to reopen Monday, few have elected to do so.
It’s also unclear what movies will be shown, as most major studio releases have been postponed through July.
For the latest information on coronavirus (COVID-19), including how to protect yourself and what to do if you think you are sick, please visit coronavirus.gov.
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