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Saturday, 25 April 2020

Texas Town Reopens Ahead Of State; Neighboring Mayor: Stores Are ‘Panicking’

While Texas is one of the more aggressive states in its reopening schedule, one town has made the decision to outpace even Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s ambitious timeline. Colleyville, Texas has become the first city in the state to reopen several “non-essential” businesses and organizations, including churches, gyms and salons.
“Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton became the first in Texas to issue a proclamation allowing churches, retail stores, gyms, salons, massage parlors and restaurants to reopen Friday — with social distancing — ahead of an order by the Texas governor expected next week,” The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
The L.A. Times describes the response to Mayor Newton’s proclamation as fraught with “confusion, frustration and worry” from county authorities, mayors from neighboring towns, and some residents from the small town of 27,000 people, “more than half of whom are 65 or older” — while a about half of the residents who responded to a Facebook poll supported reopening.
Southlake Mayor Karen Hill said businesses from her city are “panicking.” “Our businesses are panicking. They don’t know what’s going on,” said Hill, as reported by the L.A. Times.
A local emergency room doctor also sounded the alarm, saying “people not wearing the masks and following the social distancing guidelines.”
Others, including Tarrant County’s executive officer Glen Whitley, are questioning if Newtown’s order is even legal. But the Texas attorney general’s office shot down that concern, saying Colleyville could reopen at its own pace. “Gov. Greg Abbott, an advocate of small government, refused to intervene,” the L.A. Times notes.
“Most of the businesses in Colleyville are small, locally owned,” said Newton. “It’s the smaller guys that are really getting killed. As long as the data supports it, we want to give them the opportunity.”
“The mayor released instructions with his order that businesses that reopen could only serve customers by appointment, one person per 200 square feet excluding employees,” the L.A. Times reports. “Gyms can host private classes of up to 10 people at a time. Restaurants can offer dine-in service if they have a patio or construct one, with distance between tables.”
Newton says he issued the proclamation after city leaders examined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s models and found that the area had reached its peak infections and only half of the local hospital beds were occupied. The city is following the CDC’s recommendation, he said.
“Tarrant County, with a population of about 2 million, has reported 1,333 infections and 42 deaths, although less than 0.5% of the population has been tested for the virus,” the L.A. Times reports.
As reported by the Dallas Morning News, Gov. Abbott announced last week the formation of a “Strike Force to Open Texas,” made up of “a team of nationally recognized medical experts as well as private and public leaders,” and released dates in which parks and some businesses and organizations would be allowed to reopen in the state:
  • On Monday, state parks will again open their gates, though visitors will have to wear masks or face coverings and keep at least six feet away from other visitors who aren’t members of their families.
  • Starting Wednesday, in a bow to doctors and hospitals, restrictions on elective procedures and surgeries will be loosened. He cited biopsies for cancer as one example.
  • Starting April 24, retailers who previously were considered nonessential may begin providing pickup service or home delivery for customers[.]
“We have shown that Texas can continue our efforts to contain COVID-19 while also adopting safe standards that will allow us to begin the process of reopening Texas,” Abbott said in a statement Friday. The gradual reopening, he stressed, will be “guided by data and by doctors.”

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