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Texas is allowing bars to reopen on Friday — but dancing will officially be ‘discouraged’

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'Friends having a round of drinks in a pub' [Shutterstock]

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that day care centers, youth clubs and personal-care services were allowed to open Monday, and starting Friday, myriad other businesses can reopen, including bars, bowling alleys and aquariums at limited capacity. Restaurants can also operate at 50% capacity starting Friday; they’ve been permitted to operate at 25% capacity since May 1.

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Another round of reopenings will come May 31, with youth summer camps to return, as well as certain professional sports without spectators, including basketball, baseball, football, golf and softball.

Child care was previously reserved for essential workers and is now expanded to include all Texans returning to work. The opening of personal-care and beauty services — places like tattoo parlors and massage studios — includes establishments that weren’t included when salons, barbershops and nail salons opened May 8. Abbott allowed gyms, manufacturers and offices to open Monday as well.

Texas is one of 34 states reopening various sectors of the economy under different restrictions. Some states are opening regionally while others remain shut down. By next week, Texas — tied with West Virginia — could have the most industry sectors open of any state, according to a New York Times analysis.

Common guidelines for reopening sites include regularly screening workers, participants and customers; having hand sanitizing stations; regularly sanitizing and cleaning surfaces; and encouraging — but not requiring — face masks.

Here are recommendations from the governor’s task force that reopening businesses should follow.

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Child care centers and youth clubs

Child care centers, including home providers, and youth clubs were allowed to open starting Monday at full capacity.

Although children so far seem to be at lower risk for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the governor’s task force issued recommendations to help prevent the spread of the virus. But some protections, like wearing face masks or maintaining 6 feet of separation, won’t work for infants, toddlers and young children. The task force recommends the following guidelines.

  • High-risk workers, including those 65 and older, should consider staying home.
  • Sick children and staff should be required to stay home.
  • If a child starts showing symptoms, centers should have a designated room to isolate the child.
  • Parents and guardians should limit their children’s contact with people 65 and older.
  • Parents should only enter the facility when necessary.
  • For pickup and drop-off, centers should consider designating a parent to walk children to and from the classroom, wearing a face mask.
  • If centers rely on buses for transportation, riders should be spaced out and windows should be kept open.
  • Children should be separated in groups with the same caregiver. Those groups should stay the same and should avoid mixing with other groups.
  • For children ages 3 and older, there should only be 10 children for one caregiver; younger children should be in even smaller groups.
  • Playground time, art, music and other activities should happen at staggered times. Children should be outside regularly.
  • Playgrounds should be cleaned but not disinfected.
  • Nap time mats should be disinfected before and after use and should be situated as far apart as possible.
  • Toys should be sanitized and shouldn’t be shared between groups.
  • Staff working with infants and toddlers should wash hands before and after changing diapers, which should be done while wearing gloves.
  • Workers who regularly hold children should wear long-sleeved shirts and keep their hair up.
  • Infants, toddlers and workers should have multiple changes of clothes.
  • Children should be provided individual meals and snacks and shouldn’t share food with other children.
  • Youth clubs like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are allowed to hold meetings in groups of 10 or fewer.

Massage services, tattoo parlors and piercing studios

On Monday, Abbott allowed massage services, tattoo parlors, piercing studios and other personal-care and beauty services to open, with recommended protocols.

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  • Schedule appointments when possible to keep a limited number of people in shops.
  • If walk-ins are allowed, customers should wait in their cars.
  • Customers shouldn’t bring their kids.
  • Workers should wash their hands or change gloves between each service and use disposable supplies that can be thrown away after each use.
  • Each workstation should be fully cleaned between customers, including equipment that isn’t disposable.
  • Reusable towels should be put in laundry baskets after use to be cleaned with chlorine bleach, and laundry baskets should be sanitized between uses as well.

Bars

Starting Friday, bars can operate at 25% capacity under the following health guidelines.

  • Dancing and other close-contact interactions are discouraged.
  • Interactive areas like arcade games should stay closed.
  • Bars should seat customers at tables.
  • Seated parties should have no more than 6 people per table, and tables should be socially distanced, which could be managed by placing unoccupied tables between parties.
  • Staff should block off the bar itself so customers can’t sit or order there.
  • Bars should provide disposable menus and single-use condiments, silverware and glasses.
  • The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission should make sure bars comply.
  • If bars don’t follow these guidelines, the commission has the authority to suspend bars’ licenses.

Bowling alleys, bingo halls, skating rinks and simulcasting

Bowling alleys, bingo halls, skating rinks and businesses offering simulcasting — including live betting — can open at 25% capacity starting Friday. They’re advised to follow these guidelines.

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  • Businesses must keep customers 6 feet apart, including 6 feet between bowling lanes and customers playing bingo.
  • Interactive areas like arcades and child play areas must stay closed.
  • Bowling balls and roller skates should be disinfected after each use.
  • If offering food, businesses should use disposable menus; single-use condiments should only be provided when requested.
  • Businesses should block off self-service drinking fountains.

Rodeos

Also starting Friday, rodeos and equestrian events can return to Texas with spectators, but only at 25% capacity. Here are the rules they should follow.

  • Spectators should be 6 feet apart from people not in their households, with two empty seats between parties and empty seating every other row.
  • Remote ticketing is encouraged.
  • Facilities must allow for adequate social distancing upon entering and exiting the venue.
  • County fairs are not allowed to take place at this time.
  • If food is provided, menus should be disposable, and single-use condiments should only be provided when requested.

Zoos, aquariums and caverns

Aquariums and caverns can open Friday at 25% capacity, and zoos can open May 29 at a quarter of normal operating limits if their local governments allow it. These locations should operate under the following guidelines.

  • Interactive features like child play areas and video game areas have to remain closed.
  • Zoos must close all indoor areas besides restrooms.
  • Handrails and other frequently touched items should be barricaded off.
  • If food is provided, menus should be disposable, and single-use condiments should only be provided when requested.

Professional and youth sports

Certain professional sports can hold events starting May 31, but spectators can’t be present. Permitted sports include basketball, baseball, car racing, football, golf, softball and tennis leagues. Leagues have to submit requests to the Texas Department of State Health Services along with plans to apply minimum health standards to safely hold sporting events.

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Also starting May 31, youth sports can practice without spectators besides one parent or guardian per child. Games can resume starting June 15, and spectators are allowed and should maintain 6 feet distance, wearing masks. Here are the guidelines for youth sports.

  • If three or more teams have individuals who test positive for the virus, leagues should work with state and local health authorities to decide whether the league should continue.
  • Youth sports operators should notify all parents and guardians of the increased risk for people 65 or older.
  • Group trips are strongly discouraged, but if they continue, transportation should allow for one individual per seat and staggered seating.
  • Staff with underlying conditions shouldn’t attend sporting events.

Youth camps

Day and overnight youth camps can open starting May 31, with guidelines issued by the governor’s task force. As with child care centers, certain protective measures like masks and social distancing are not feasible for young children.

  • Group outings away from camp are strongly discouraged.
  • Before a new camp session starts, facilities should undergo a deep clean and sanitization.
  • Groups of staff and campers should be kept consistent and separate throughout the session.
  • If three or more groups have confirmed cases of the virus, staff should work with state and local health authorities to decide whether the camp should continue operating.
  • Camps should use disposable dishes and utensils and avoid self-serve buffet meals.
  • Medical staff should be on site or on call for the duration of camp.
  • If a camper or staff member starts showing symptoms at camp, they should be isolated and tested for COVID-19.
  • Staff members who test positive for the virus will immediately leave camp.
  • Campers and staff members shouldn’t be allowed to return to camp if they test positive for the virus until three days after they’ve recovered and 10 days after symptoms appeared, with improved symptoms.
  • If a child tests positive at a camp, a parent or guardian can pick their child up or rely on the camp to take proper health measures and isolate the camper.
  • Otherwise, parents and guardians shouldn’t visit camps other than to pick up or drop off children, remaining in their vehicles when possible.
  • Camps should notify parents and guardians of this protocol, as well as the high risk of the coronavirus to people 65 and older.
  • If staff members have underlying conditions, they should limit staffing camp sessions.
  • For overnight camps, staff should consider sending employees to campgrounds a week before the first session, especially if the workers are coming from a coronavirus hot spot.
  • Once they arrive, staff members shouldn’t be allowed to visit surrounding areas in the community except for weekly supervised trips to stores for essential items, while wearing masks.
  • If someone’s child starts showing symptoms of COVID-19 at an overnight camp, that parent or guardian should be available to arrange pickup of the camper within eight hours.
  • Visitors to overnight camps should only be allowed if they’re necessary for the camp, such as those providing food delivery; no tours should be offered.

Story by Clare Proctor of The Texas Tribune.


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