Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s incremental reopening of the state is aimed at getting Texans back to work in phases. But that process has hardly been straightforward or consistent.
Last Friday, barbershops, along with hair, nail and tanning salons were all allowed to reopen, with certain limitations. Those businesses join restaurants, movie theaters and other retail establishments that were allowed to open on May 1.
Reporters from different corners of the state told Texas Standard host David Brown on Monday that local leaders are trying to balance the governor’s orders with the needs of residents, and those two goals are often at odds.
In Austin, Mayor Steve Adler is continuing stay-at-home and face-mask ordinances even though Abbott’s state order supersedes them.
Matt Largey, projects editor at KUT in Austin, told Brown that the partial reopening of retail and services businesses like hair and nail salons continues through the end of the month. It’s a kind of trial period to assess how safe it actually is to reopen as the pandemic persists.
“They’re seeing this as sort of a yellow-light phase,” Largey said. “They really want to get a sense of how things are going …in terms of the numbers of infections and whether or not the number of cases is rising.”
In Laredo, local leaders are more strictly enforcing mask ordinances even though they run counter to state orders. Sandra Sanchez is the South Texas correspondent for borderreport.com. She told Brown that Laredo is issuing citations but not collecting fines. Border cities are being especially strict because they’re vulnerable to spread from Mexico where the number of COVID-19 cases is rising.
“[The state of] Tamaulipas, which is 6 miles from where I am right now, has yet to hit its peak,” Sanchez said.
Plus, she said it’s possible that Mexico isn’t reporting the full umber of cases or deaths.
“Leaders who run cities on these borders … are extremely concerned about what’s coming over the bridges.”
McAllen, where she’s based, felt like a “ghost town” for weeks, but that changed after Abbott’s reopening order.
“Starting Thursday, it was as if everyone was out shopping for Mother’s Day gifts.”
Cases are expected to rise there as a result.
In Southeast Texas, Beaumont Enterprise reporter Kaitlin Bain told Brown that a six-county coronavirus testing task force is about to disband. That could make the city of Port Arthur especially vulnerable. That city is majority black and Latino, and those residents could be at higher risk for contracting the disease.
“[The city] hasn’t been able to get a testing program in place yet,” Bain said.
Port Arthur’s mayor is concerned that the reopening is a threat to public health. He’s asked county judges and Gov. Abbott to reverse their decisions.
A one-day testing site there last week was visited by more people than about any other one-day site in the region.
Sanchez and Largey said local leaders in their areas have also indicated that cities aren’t ready to reopen.
Web story by Caroline Covington.
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