Williamson County's Stay Home Stay Safe order expired at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, April 30. Starting May 1, Williamson County businesses began following Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive orders issued April 27, 2020, to reopen businesses safely and strategically in phases while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. His detailed plan is outlined in Texans Helping Texans: The Governor's Report to Open Texas. This report helps Texans understand phase one by outlining the new protocols, guidance, and recommendations. For a copy of the report, click here.
On May 5, Governor Abbott issued a new executive order to expand openings of certain businesses and activities. Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 8, cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops, nail salons/shops, and other establishments where licensed cosmetologists or barbers practice their trade may open; provided, however, that all such salons, shops, and establishments must ensure at least six feet of social distancing between operating work stations. Also, tanning salons can open; provided, however, that all such salons must ensure at least six feet of social distancing between operating work stations. Finally, swimming pools may open; provided, however, that (i) indoor swimming pools may operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the pool facility; (ii) outdoor swimming pools may operate at up to 25 percent of normal operating limits as determined by the pool operator; and (iii) local public swimming pools may so operate only if permitted by the local government.
Starting Monday, May 18, additional businesses may open that include:
a. Services provided by office workers in offices that operate at up to the greater of (i) five individuals, or (ii) 25 percent of the total office workforce; provided, however, that the individuals maintain appropriate social distancing.
b. Manufacturing services, for facilities that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the facility.
c. Gyms and exercise facilities and classes that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the gym or exercise facility; provided, however, that locker rooms and shower facilities must remain closed, but restrooms may open.
“Governor Abbott is leading Texas in a positive direction, and the orders are reasonable and thoughtful. In the days ahead, you will see Williamson County stand strong and respond to this new direction, while staying vigilant to protect the most vulnerable in our community,” said Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell.
Under Phase I, certain services and activities are allowed to open with limited occupancy. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is issuing minimum standard health protocols for all businesses and individuals to follow. The Governor provided special guidance for Texans over the age of 65, and detailed a comprehensive mitigation plan for nursing homes in Texas to follow.
Under Phase II, more businesses will be allowed to open as long as they follow appropriate safety guidelines and abide by certain restrictions, such as operating with limited occupancy.
The businesses that will be allowed to reopen under Phase II include:
a. Child Care Centers (May 18)
b. Massage and Personal-Care Centers (May 18)
c. Youth Clubs (May 18)
d. Rodeo and Equestrian Events (May 22)
e. Bowling Alleys, Bingo Halls, Simulcast Racing, and Skating Rinks (May 22)
f. Bars (May 22)
g. Aquariums and Natural Caverns (May 22)
h. Zoos (May 29)
i. Day Youth Camps (May 31)
j. Overnight Youth Camps (May 31)
k. Youth Sports (May 31)
l. Certain professional sports without in-person spectators (May 31)
On May 26, Governor Abbott announced additional services that can open under Phase II such as water parks, recreational sports programs for adults, driver education programs, and food court dining areas within shopping malls. To read what can open Friday, May 29, click here.
The Governor also announced a statewide testing and tracing program developed by DSHS that will help public health officials quickly identify and test Texans who contract COVID-19 and mitigate further spread of the virus.
In order to increase testing capabilities and offer more testing to our residents, Williamson County is opening several testing sites throughout the county. The first site will open Thursday, April 30, and it will be led by Williamson County and Cities Health District personnel. During the Tuesday, April 28, Commissioners Court meeting an agreement with a private provider for testing sites was approved. This agreement will make it possible for more testing sites to open around the county in the coming days.
Before getting tested at a Williamson County site, residents who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will have to take an online screening. To take the assessment visit, www.wilco.org/coronavirus.
To protect those who are at high risk of getting COVID-19 and are considered the most vulnerable, Williamson County is working with its partner cities to continue to visit nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the county. The visits are to ensure the facilities continue to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Protecting our elderly population, which I consider to be our most valuable, continues to be our priority. As we follow the path to reopen our county, we are focused on enforcing these guidelines to keep COVID-19 from further impacting out most vulnerable population,” said Gravell.
County Judge Bill Gravell is echoing Governor Abbott’s sentiment and is strongly encouraging people over the age of 65 to stay at home as much as possible. Residents should maintain appropriate distance from any member of the household who has been out of the residence in the previous 14 days. For those that do leave the home, you are urged to implement social distancing and practice good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation.
John William Hellerstedt, M.D., Chief Medical Officer with the Texas Department of State Health Services, recommends all residents continue to follow these critical health guidelines:
• Stay home if you can.
• Wash hands often and for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue away.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Disinfect surfaces, buttons, handles, doorknobs, and other places touched often. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Williamson County residents should continue to practice social distancing, avoid crowds, and limit physical contact. The CDC continues to recommend that residents use cloth face coverings in public to help slow the spread of the virus.
Although the Stay Home Stay Safe Order is expiring, the County’s local disaster declaration is still in effect. Williamson County elected officials and department heads are making plans for the re-opening of county offices. Information will be available on the county website as it becomes available.
Copies of the April 27, 2020, Executive Orders can be found here: GA 18, GA 19 and GA 20.