By Patrick Svitek, Texas Tribune
Gov. Greg Abbott will allow hair salons in Texas to reopen Friday — and gyms will be allowed to open May 18.
The businesses will be required to follow certain rules as the state continues to grapple with the coronavirus. Hairstylists will be able to work with only one customer at a time. People waiting in barber shops will have to maintain 6-foot separation or wait outside.
Meanwhile, gyms will be required to operate at a maximum of 25% of capacity. Showers and locker rooms will be closed, and equipment must be disinfected after each use.
Abbott acknowledged people may want to see another type of business reopen — bars — but said the state is still figuring out how they can do so safely and did not offer a timetable.
Abbott made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday. It came less than a week after he began what he has described as the first phase of business reopenings in the state — allowing restaurants, retail stores, libraries and museums to open if they limited crowds to 25% of capacity. Since he announced those the initial business reopenings last week, Abbott has faced increasing pressure from some in his own party to also give the green light to barbershops and gyms. Earlier Tuesday, two Republican state representatives defied Abbott’s wishes by getting haircuts at a Houston-area salon.
Abbott also said “we strongly recommend” that barbers and people getting their hair cut wear masks, but he stopped short of requiring it.
“They are very close to each other as that service is provided,” he said. “The only safe way that you can go about providing that service … would be for both the person providing the service and the customer to be wearing face masks.”
He also urged Texans to continue following social distancing guidelines.
“If Texans stop using the distancing strategies we have been utilizing in the past month, they will cause an increase in COVID transmission,” he said. “If that happens, it will lead to some counties having to impose stricter” requirements.
Tuesday’s press conference came as the number of coronavirus cases in Texas increased to at least 33,369, including 906 deaths, according to the latest numbers from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The virus is present in 216 out of the state’s 254 counties.
The total number of tests conducted in Texas is 427,210, the DSHS figures show.