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Water parks, food court dining areas added to Texas’ latest wave of reopenings

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation on Tuesday announcing additional services and activities that can resume under his second wave of reopenings, allowing food courts in shopping malls to reopen immediately and giving the green light for water parks to begin operations with limited capacity starting Friday.

Recreational sports programs for adults can restart Sunday, though games and similar competitions may not recommence until June 15. Abbott also permitted driver education programs to resume operations immediately.

For food court dining areas that choose to reopen, Abbott is encouraging malls to designate one or more people who are responsible for enforcing social distancing and ensuring tables are cleaned and disinfected between uses.

His announcement comes nearly a week after he unveiled his second wave of reopenings designed to kickstart the state’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, child care facilities and bars at limited capacity were given the green light to reopen.

While indoor and outdoor pools can operate at 25% occupancy, the governor’s previous directives have specifically said people should continue to avoid interactive amusement venues like water parks.

Abbott was facing pressure, however, from a Houston-area water park that initially said last week that it would defy Abbott’s orders and reopen Saturday for Memorial Day weekend. Asked about that last week, Abbott told an Austin television station that his office was talking with operators to make sure they comply.

“They subject themselves to potential litigation as well as potential licensing-based issues if they fail to comply, and so it’s a potentially business-dangerous process for them to proceed forward knowing that they are subjecting themselves to litigation if they open up and anybody contracts COVID-19,” he said to KXAN.

The park ultimately decided not to open early, Community Impact Newspaper reported.

The governor began a phased reopening of the economy in late April, letting the state’s stay-at-home order expire and allowing retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to operate at 25% capacity. He then allowed barbershops and salons to reopen May 8 under certain restrictions.

Abbott’s proclamation Tuesday came a day after the total number of coronavirus cases in Texas increased to 55,971, including 1,527 deaths, according to the latest data from the Department of State Health Services. Out of Texas’ 254 counties, 228 are reporting cases.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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