(Miguel Gutierrez/POOL via The Texas Tribune)

Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference last month.

Texas hair stylists, nail salons, tanning salons and barber shops may reopen for clients this Friday, and gyms may open on May 18, as long as they follow new social distancing and health guidelines, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday.


Texans are still required to practice social distancing in those businesses and are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings when patronizing them if they want the economy to continue to reopen, Abbott said.

"Our ability to continue that effort will be hinged to how well Texans respond in the future," Abbott said.

Bars are still closed until further notice, but Abbott said the state is continuing to seek safe strategies for those businesses, which operate by nature in an environment that "promotes the transmission of infectious disease."

His remarks come just over a week after he lifted restrictions on nonessential businesses like retail stores, and allowed restaurants to reopen their dining rooms with 25% capacity last Friday. It was the first phase of what he said was a multi-tiered plan to gradually lead Texas out of the self-imposed quarantine that has devastated businesses and workers for weeks.

He and other state officials said testing had ramped up significantly in the week since that announcement was made, but infection rates are actually going down and hospitalization rates seemed stable, justifying the decision to further open businesses with strict guidelines.

Salons may reopen as long as their clients wait outside the location or inside while maintaining proper distance from each other. Only one person per stylist may be inside at a time, and clients and stylists are encouraged, though not required, to wear masks.

Gyms may operate at 25% capacity, equipment must be sanitized after every use, and clients are encouraged to wear gloves and masks and must stay six feet distance from each other.

Abbott also said weddings, funerals and memorial services are considered church services and may go on as long as participants follow social distancing guidelines. High schools may have graduation ceremonies outside, online or in drive-in settings. Rules for state parks also apply to beaches and other outdoor natural spaces.

As of Tuesday, there have been 33,369 positive tests reported in Texas and 906 deaths related to COVID-19. There are now more recoveries (16,791) than active cases (15,672), according to official counts.

Some 427,210 Texans have been tested, with the help of the state's military department, with more than half of those tests administered in the past week, Abbott said. More than 95% of those tests have come back negative, he said.

Texans can click here to find a testing station in their area. There were more than 400 testing sites in more than 150 counties across Texas as of Tuesday.

Dr. John Hellerstedt of the Texas Department of State Health Services called Texas' efforts to slow the spread of the virus a success that shows in the numbers.

"This is not a one-way street," he said. "We have seen the way the people of Texas have responded to these first challenges, and it worked."

(Austonia staff)

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