Republican governor of Texas Greg Abbott said he plans to allow businesses to reopen with an executive order that would lift the coronavirus lockdown in a "safe" way.
The announcement from the second largest state is likely sharpen debate over how long Americans should endure crippling economic restrictions to contain a pandemic that has claimed more than 18,000 lives. The medical community and many Democrats have argued for extended closures to reduce infection rates. The business community and many Republicans want to end the deepest recession since the Great Depression before it does lasting economic damage.
Abbott said Texas, which would be the world's 11th largest economy it were an independent country, could find a balance between personal safety and economic security.
"We will focus on protecting lives while restoring livelihoods," Abbott said on Friday at a news conference.
"We can and we must do this. We can do both, expand and restore the livelihoods that Texans want to have by helping them return to work. One thing about Texans, they enjoy working and they want to get back into the workforce. We have to come up with strategies on how we can do this safely."
Abbott said details of the executive order would be available next week and it is expected to provide businesses with a list of guidelines on how to safely reopen.
"We will operate strategically," Abbott added. "If we do it too fast without appropriate strategies, it will lead to another potential closure."
Newsweek reached out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for comment.
Abbott also promised testing for the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 would be part of the plan. On Wednesday, the governor announced that Walgreens locations would soon offer a test that can be administered via the drive-thru window, and will provide results within 15 minutes. Abbott estimates that each Walgreens store could test as many as 3,000 people a day. The tests are developed by Abbott Labs; despite the similar name, Gov. Abbott has no connection to the company.Gov. Greg Abbott displays COVID-19 test collection vials as he addresses the media during a press conference held at Arlington Emergency Management on March 18, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. Tom Pennington/Getty
Abbott also announced updated statistics for COVID-19's effect on Texas. Approximately 116,000 Texans have been tested for coronavirus; of those, 11,449 tested positive. Texas has seen 221 COVID-19 related deaths, 1,532 hospitalizations and 1,336 recoveries from the disease. To be considered recovered, a previously-infected person must go 14 days without the virus in their system. Abbott also said that Texas had 7,834 ventilators available.
Currently, Texas is under a stay-at-home order closing non-essential businesses and dine-in restaurants which is due to last until April 30. Abbott did not reveal an updated timeline for reopening Texas. President Donald Trump came under fire last month for saying he hoped to reopen the United States by Easter, April 12. He later backtracked on these comments, and Trump now says he hopes the country can open by early May.
Though Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and member of Trump's coronavirus task force, has argued in favor of a nationwide lockdown to stop COVID-19 from spreading, Trump has refused to do so.
"We can't have the cure be worse than the problem," Trump said on March 23. "We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems."
The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 across the United States.The spread of the COVID-19 virus in the U.S. Statista