Wearing masks, hikers hit trails as Texas starts reopening
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — State parks reopened Monday in Texas as the state began what Republican Gov. Greg Abbott says will be a gradual unraveling of restrictions that were put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus. In Dallas, grocery store employees and retail clerks are now among those who can be tested for COVID-19 even if they don’t have symptoms.
The latest from Texas:
VISITORS LINE UP AT PARKS
Eager hikers and fishermen lined up early as Texas parks reopened for the first time since temporarily closing April 7 as part of statewide social distancing restrictions.
At Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in the Hill Country, about 120 people made reservations Monday to enter one of Texas’ most popular park destinations, park ranger Tina Johnson said. Visitors had to remain in their car while grabbing trail maps and signs reminded them to wear masks and keep six feet apart from other hikers.
In Houston, dozens of families flocked early to Sheldon Lake State Park, where most though not all visitors wore masks as required.
Not all Texas state parks are reopening yet. In El Paso, Mayor Dee Margo has said two popular sites — Franklin Mountains and Hueco Tanks state parks — will remain closed due to local COVID-19 trends.
Texas this week will also allow doctors to resume nonessential surgeries and let retailers sell items for curbside pickup. Abbott said more restrictions would be lifted before the end of the month.
RETURN TO RACING
Abbott said in a tweet Monday that NASCAR was working with Texas Motor Speedway on a plan to race in Fort Worth without fans. The governor didn’t give a timeline but said he hoped to announce details “in the near future.”
Track president Eddie Gossage said after Abbott’s post that the track was working on a hard date for the rescheduling of its race, one of eight Cup races that NASCAR has postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The race at the 1 1/2-mile track had been scheduled for March 29. NASCAR has said it plans to run all of its races.
“Texas Motor Speedway will work aggressively with the sanctioning bodies and TV networks to give American society, as well as people around the world, a positive distraction during this crisis,” Gossage said in a statement. “A non-spectator event is not perfect because in our sport, the fans come first. But circumstances are such that this is a novel answer for the return of the sport for now.”
DALLAS EXPANDS TESTING
Retail workers in Dallas can now get tested for the coronavirus even if they don’t have symptoms, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted. Testing in Dallas for residents over 65, those with underlying health conditions and first responders is also available for those without symptoms.
At least 60 people have died in Dallas County, and while no new deaths were reported Monday, Jenkins said some private labs were closed Sunday and that the county is continue to “scrap and claw” for more testing.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Total cases: 19,548
Total tests: 190,394
Current hospitalizations: 1,411
(Source: Texas Department of State Health Services)