AUSTIN, Texas — At his third press conference of the week, Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas businesses can expect an executive order from his office next week, with plans on how to begin reopening the state's economy.
Abbott says he has been in constant contact with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to discuss how to proceed with beginning the process of allowing businesses to open up again.
"We have a desire to make sure it's done in a way that it's safe, understanding that if everyone were to rush the doors and go back into the job market overnight, we would see an outbreak of COVID-19 all over again. That's exactly why I'm issuing the executive order next week establishing what the statewide standards would be in the coming days about what the approach is. These are standards we've been working in conjunction with the White House on," Abbott said. "We will focus on protecting lives, while restoring livelihoods. We can and we must do this. We can do both."
This announcement came hours after Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick said on a town hall call with the Texas GOP that he would like to start opening businesses back up by the first week of May.
"We’re not going to open up everything immediately, but it will be done in phases, but we need to get started, and I hope that’s the first week of May, barring any unforeseen big spikes," Patrick said on the call.
Abbott says Texas will continue taking cues from the White House.
"We will be learning in more detail in the coming week what the approaches will be by the White House for the United States of America, both with regard to economic revitalization but also doing so in ways that maintain public health and safety," Abbott said.
Abbott also says he has been talking with Trump and Pence about how to go about revitalizing the energy and agriculture sectors, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.
"[The Trump] administration has been very supportive, wanting to do whatever they possibly could do to make sure they would be able to invigorate the energy industry in both Texas as well as the United States of America, not just because of the lost jobs, which are prolific, and not just because of the economic impact, which has been severe, but also because of the importance of Texas and USA maintaining an independent energy sector that America can rely upon, as opposed to America having to be reliant upon the energy sectors of foreign countries," Abbott said. "This is also so very important to the farmers. We have so many farmers and ranchers in the state of Texas whose livelihood is based upon what they’re able to make off the land. Whose livelihood is being compromised by so many aspects of what’s going on concerning the coronavirus. We appreciate everything [Secretary of Agriculture Sonny] Perdue is doing."
CBS Austin spoke with Austin Mayor Steve Adler shortly after Abbott’s remarks.
Mayor Adler says he,too, hopes to have businesses back open as soon as possible—but warns we aren’t out of the woods yet.
“We’re going to be focused on public health—it’s the first priority and it needs to be that,” says Mayor Adler.
Over the past week, Abbott has stressed the importance of getting personal protective equipment to healthcare workers. At Wednesday's press conference, he announced the state's partnership with Fort Worth-area company Prestige Ameritech, who will manufacture 2 million masks per week.
Abbott said on Friday, over the past 8 days, the state has shipped 3,710,000 masks, 116,700 face shields 4,480,000 gloves, and 78,000 gowns and coveralls.
RELATED: Austin closes ALL city parks, trails for Easter weekend to stem spread of COVID-19
According to the most recent Texas Department of State Health Services data, Texas now has 11,671 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 226 deaths. Additionally, 176 of the 254 counties in the state have reported cases.
Abbott said the state saw its highest number of confirmed cases and deaths in a single day on Tuesday. However, he also said there were 21,066 hospital beds, 2,225 ICU beds, and 7,686 ventilators available across the state, all increases from the figures he announced at his Monday briefing. On Friday, he announced there are still 20,488 hospital beds, 2,248 ICU beds, and 7,834 ventilators.
During Friday's press conference, Abbott touted charts that showed the curves representing the number of cases and new cases were starting to flatten, highlighting Travis County.
"The degree of that angle shows you the extent to which we are slowing the spread," Abbott said. "It’s way too early to make any great pronouncements that Travis County is on the downslope but since April 2, it looks like their numbers of people testing positive is going in the right direction."
Ahead of the Easter weekend, Abbott ordered the temporary closure of state parks and historic sites on Tuesday. Several Central Texas cities and counties also announced this week they were closing parks for the holiday weekend.
Abbott also announced the creation of a child care portal for healthcare and other essential workers across 153 counties.
It's called the Frontline Child Care Portal, and provides maps of 3,298 licensed child care centers.
Overnight, more than 1,000 child care spots have been filled. There are still 88,450 spots open, of which: 13,027 infant spots, 22,281 toddler spots, 28,184 pre-k spots, and 24,954 school aged spots.
"We urge all of our essential workers to look into this service, and utilize this service to ease the strain on you and your lives so you're able to focus on what your fellow Texans desperately need, and that is your efforts on the frontline," Abbott said.
You can find the portal here.