Governor extends social distancing order; schools closed until at least May 4

"As the President has made clear, we are not yet done with our response," Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday from the Texas Capitol
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AUSTIN, Tex. (KBTX)- Gov. Greg Abbott extended social distancing guidelines through April 30 and announced Texas schools will remain closed until at least May 4.

As part of Tuesday's executive order, Abbott also deemed certain businesses and services "essential" statewide.

Click here to watch the full briefing by Gov. Abbott.

"As the President has made clear, we are not yet done with our response," Abbott said from the Texas Capitol, flanked by state leaders including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. "We've come too far to falter now. We've made tremendous strides but we have not yet reached our destination."

According to the order, essential services will consist of everything listed in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s guidance on essential critical infrastructure workforce, and include sectors such as public health, transportation, food and agriculture and more.

Religious services are also deemed an essential service and must either be conducted virtually or abide by appropriate social distancing measures if in-person, Abbott said, giving an example of a "drive-up" service where people remain in their cars.

"That seems like it would satisfy the criteria that we're talking about," Abbott said.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management may approve and add additional essential services, and will maintain a list at this page: https://tdem.texas.gov/essentialservices/

"In short, what this provides is that Texans are expected to limit personal interactions that could lead to the spread of COVID-19, while also still having the freedom to conduct daily activities such as going to the grocery store, so long as you are following the presidential standard of good distance practices," Abbott said.

According to the executive order, businesses people should avoid visiting in-person include gyms, massage parlors, tattoo and piercing studios, cosmetology salons, and dining-in at restaurants and bars. Drive-through or take-out orders are still allowed and encouraged, Abbott said.

“In particular, all services should be provided through remote telework from home unless they are essential services that cannot be provided through remote telework,” according to the order.

The order will go into effect statewide at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, April 2 and lasts through April 30, in alignment with President Donald Trump's extension of social distancing guidelines through that date.

However, Abbott rejected the language of a "shelter-in-place" or "stay-at-home" order, and stressed that Texans may still leave their homes for essential activities, such as to visit the grocery store or bank, or exercise outdoors.

Local officials can still put into place stricter guidelines for local communities, but they can't override what's in the new statewide order.

College Station ISD's last day is scheduled for May 28. Bryan ISD's last day this school year is May 22.

As of noon Tuesday, Abbott said that there have been at least 3,266 confirmed cases across 122 counties, 41 COVID-19 related deaths and 42,922 Texans that have been tested. Abbott said of the hospital beds available in Texas for COVID-19 patients, only 2.4% are currently occupied.

"Most of these numbers very importantly were the result of personal interactions in the state of Texas before the distancing practices that have gone in place the last couple of weeks," Abbott said.

In Brazos County, 53 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed including two fatal cases. Washington County has reported 11 cases. Walker County's number rose on Tuesday to six.

There are a total of 82 cases in all counties of the Brazos Valley.

Patrick stressed that Texans should not leave home unless necessary, and pointed to Texas' death rate compared to other states.

"If you look at the death rate in Texas -- per capita of 29 million people -- we're one of the lowest in the country. But we need to continue that for the rest of April. And even be better at that," Patrick said.