Gov. Abbott’s Stay-At-Home Order Expires Thursday, Many Businesses Can Open Friday 

As statewide restrictions on businesses to prevent the spread of COVD-19 begin to be lifted, there is a lot to keep up with when it comes to the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are today’s bullet points.

  • Gov. Abbott’s Stay-At-Home Order Expires Thursday, Many Businesses Can Open Friday 
  • SMU Announces President’s Task Force For A Healthy Opening Fall 2020, Steps To Address Budget
  • IRS Announces Enhancement Of ‘Get My Payment’ Online Application
  • Park Cities Dads Club Serves During COVID-19 Crisis
Gov. Abbott’s Stay-At-Home Order Expires Thursday, Many Businesses Can Open Friday 

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that his statewide stay-at-home order will expire as scheduled Thursday, and a phased re-opening plan in which malls, retail stores, movie theaters, and restaurants will be able to open Friday at no more than 25% occupancy.

“Now it’s time to set a new course – a course that responsibly opens up business in Texas,” Abbott said in a Monday press conference. “Opening Texas must occur in phases. Obviously, not all businesses can open all at once. A more strategic approach is required to make sure that we don’t re-open only to have to close down again… the extent to which this order opens up businesses in Texas supersedes all local orders.”

Abbott added museums and libraries can also re-open at 25% capacity and his order doesn’t require the businesses to re-open. 

“However, interactive areas of museums with hands-on exhibits must remain closed at this time,” he said.

Within shopping malls, the food-court dining areas, play areas, and interactive displays and settings must remain closed, according to a news release. Nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities must also remain closed to visitors unless to provide critical assistance, a news release states.

Abbott said outdoor sports are also allowed under his new order, as long as it involves no more than four participants playing at any one time and social distancing practices are followed.

He added doctors, nurses and dentists need to return to work, so all licensed healthcare professionals are allowed to return to work with few restrictions, but all licensed hospitals must reserve 15% capacity for COVID-19 patients.

Abbott said barber shops, hair salons, bars, and gyms would have to wait until at least mid-May to re-open. In phase two of Abbott’s plan, which could begin as early as May 18 if the virus is contained, the businesses operating at 25% capacity could increase to 50% capacity. He said officials would look at data including the number of positive cases, hospitalization rates, and deaths in determining whether it’s safe to move into phase two.

He said a childcare task force developed a website to connect workers with childcare providers and a medical team is working to determine safe ways to open summer camps.

Abbott acknowledged having effective testing and contact tracing is critical to opening up businesses safely and, as such, he said his goal is to test 25,000 Texans per day.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a statement regarding Abbott’s plan.

“The first priority of those you elect is to keep you safe. I’ve asked Dallas County Health and Human Services director Dr. Philip Huang and physician leaders, including those specializing in infectious disease and epidemiology from area hospitals, to carefully review the governor’s orders and will wait to hear from them. Most other plans that open businesses in phases don’t put places like movie theaters in the first group to open. The orders have changed but the science that will keep us safe has not,” Jenkins’ statement said. “I believe North Texans will focus not on ‘what can they do’ but rather ‘what should they do.’ It will be imperative for North Texans to make good choices particularly where these orders veer from the advice of public health experts. Following science is the best way to keep safe and open the economy.”

SMU Announces President’s Task Force For A Healthy Opening Fall 2020, Steps To Address Budget

SMU announced in a statement on its website April 27 the appointment of the SMU President’s Task Force For a Healthy Opening Fall 2020, co-chaired by K.C. Mmeje, vice president for Student Affairs, and Peter K. Moore, vice president for Academic Affairs and provost ad interim.

The task force will report to SMU President R. Gerald Turner through the President’s Executive Council and is tasked with creating subcommittees to address issues like academic continuity, research continuity, business continuity, campus health and wellness, student continuity, and communications that meet regularly, as well as looking at the university’s policies and procedures and proposing new ones if necessary to meet needs, studying best practices from other higher education leaders and institutions, remaining aware of the financial strains and limitations resulting from the pandemic, and adhere to deadlines that enable communications with the campus community by: May 15 for July session; June 1 for Study Abroad programs; and June 1 for August commencement and the beginning of the fall semester.

Turner also announced in a letter last week to the campus community posted to SMU’s website that the university identified a budget gap of more than $13 million in the current fiscal year.

“We plan to deal with these current fiscal-year impacts through expense reductions directly related to services we are no longer offering, budget reserves, and hopefully some federal CARES funding,” Turner said in the letter. “The financial issues are likely to become more serious as we move toward FY 21. We are modelling several enrollment scenarios for the fall semester that assume in-person classes, online classes only, and a hybrid model including both.”

As such, Turner said in the letter that SMU imposed a hiring delay through at least December 2020 on open faculty and staff positions funded by unrestricted dollars, and will reduce expenses through attrition by not filling positions that become vacant during this period. SMU also will delay implementation of most new or increased budget items for the 2021 fiscal year that begins June 1.

“Nevertheless, since it was approved in January, the University intends to support the 2% pool of funds used for increases in base salaries. These continuing and one-time raises for faculty and staff for FY 21 will still be awarded beginning June 1 for staff and August 1 for faculty,” Turner continued. “However, our deans, university vice presidents, the athletic director and I will not at this time receive any compensation adjustments for the next fiscal year.”

IRS Announces Enhancement Of ‘Get My Payment’ Online Application

The IRS April 26 announced enhancements to the ‘Get My Payment’ online tool,  which debuted on April 15, to make for a smoother experience. The additional changes will help taxpayers with new or expanded information and access to adding direct deposit information.

“We delivered Get My Payment with new capabilities that did not exist during any similar relief program, including the ability to receive direct deposit information that accelerates payments to millions of people,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in a statement. “These further enhancements will help even more taxpayers. We urge people who haven’t received a payment date yet to visit Get My Payment again for the latest information. IRS teams worked long hours to deliver Get My Payment in record time, and we will continue to make improvements to help Americans.”

“We encourage people to check back in and visit Get My Payment,” Rettig added. “These enhancements will help many taxpayers. By using Get My Payment now, more people will be able to get payments quickly by being able to add direct deposit information.”

For more information, visit IRS.gov. 

Park Cities Dads Club Serves During COVID-19 Crisis

Lastly, as usual, we end today’s digest with some good news of people helping their neighbors.

Highland Park ISD announced the Park Cities Dads Club delivered a 55-gallon drum of hand sanitizer each to the town of Highland Park and the city of University Park for use by police, fire, EMT, and other staff.

HPISD dad Matt Barnes’ company, One Shot Distillery, converted the distillery to FDA-approved sanitizer production.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

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