Gov. Greg Abbott on April 27 announced the phased reopening of restaurants and retail stores, malls and movie theaters to begin May 1, even though new COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to be reported daily statewide, while a lack of adequate testing makes it impossible to know how many people are actually infected and spreading the disease.
Businesses and other entities are not required to open May 1, but have the option of doing so, while the governor’s order supersedes all other local orders. Abbott said he’ll allow the state’s shelter-in-place order to expire on Thursday on the grounds that it “has done its job to slow the growth of COVID-19.” Businesses such as hair salons and barbershops, fitness centers and bars will remain closed for now, though they may be allowed to open in mid-May, he said.
Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. worried that the governor’s move comes too early and could spawn a second wave of the COVID-19, erasing the hard-won gains of the last several weeks in keeping the virus from spreading more. Like Texas, the county’s cases continue to increase. The latest official report was 376 confirmed cases in the county, 163 recoveries and 14 deaths. Statewide as of Tuesday, there were 26,171 total cases and 690 deaths.
“I’m concerned, I think, would be my initial reaction,” Treviño said.
He said adherence to the 25-percent capacity rule will have to be on the honor system, since it’s impossible to monitor every shop and restaurant in the state. Noting that Abbott’s order takes away the county’s ability to require everyone to wear masks or facial coverings in public, Treviño said he hopes the vast majority of county residents who have been obeying shelter-in-place, social-distancing and other mandates will continue to exercise common sense and take precautions until the virus is truly vanquished.
“Hopefully they themselves will continue to do what’s right and necessary in order to protect themselves and to protect others,” he said.
Treviño said that if the county does see a resurgence of COVID-19, he hopes the governor will see his way clear to reauthorize local governments to implement measures to stem its spread — again. He noted that when virus cases were first reported in the county several weeks ago, it was left to Texas cities and counties to figure out how to deal with it.
“We didn’t get a lot of guidance from the president or the governor at the beginning of this pandemic so we had to make some difficult decisions, which I believe served us and every other community well, by trying to keep our numbers lower than they would have been had we not implemented some of these orders and restrictions,” Treviño said.
Abbott said more businesses will be allowed to open in mid-May unless data indicates a “flare-up of COVID-19” over the first two weeks of the month. The second phase would let businesses to expand occupancy to 50 percent. The governor’s order already allows businesses in rural counties with five or fewer COVID-19 cases to reopen with 50 percent capacity.
Treviño, who was scheduled to hold a press conference this morning to discuss the governor’s order and the latest numbers on COVID-19 in the county, said he would feel better with a slower, more piecemeal approach than Abbott has called for.
“Let me clear: I’m all for reopening the economy, especially for our local and small businesses,” Treviñ o said. “But we can’t do it at the risk of endangering our people and also having to start over from scratch if we see a second wave of the virus. … If the point is to make these decisions based on data and the science, then the data and science says don’t do this yet. We’re not there yet, under any modeling.
“I understand and we will abide by the governor’s orders, but we’re very concerned that this could be subjecting us locally and both statewide and nationally to a potential second wave of the virus. No one at all should think that we are past the danger point of this virus and this pandemic.”