Texas will be the first state to allow the reopening of entertainment gathering spaces, with theaters allowed to operate when the statewide stay-at-home order expires Friday. Gov. Tom Abbott confirmed Monday that he would let his existing order expire, allowing businesses to reopen in phases. The news comes as additional pressure mounts on officials to loosen restrictions on businesses and individuals as the Covid-19 curve continues to show signs that it is flattening.

Movie theaters will be among the first tranche of businesses coming back in the second most populous state, alongside retail stores, restaurants, libraries, and museums, according to Politico. To start, they will be limited to allowing 25 percent of their usual capacity. To maximize safety for patrons they will also likely utilize a checkerboard seating concept.

Should the initial opening prove successful – in terms of coronavirus cases continuing to stay flat or decline – businesses would then be allowed to ramp up capacity to 50% as soon as mid-May. In some counties with five or fewer cases, that capacity could also come sooner.

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“We’re not just going to open up and hope for the best,” he said today. “Opening Texas must occur in phases.”

The United States passed one million confirmed cases of coronavirus on Monday, with 56,933 deaths attributed to the virus. Texas has recorded 25,516 confirmed cases and 672 deaths, according to tracking on worldometers.info/coronavirus. Events have been put to a near-complete halt since mid-March as cases surged, but hopes are high that improved testing capacity, coupled with contact tracing for those infected, will allow the country to come back to work – and events – in the near future.

Photo: Eric Gay/AP Photo

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