//PICTURED ABOVE: What sheltering in place looks like around Dallas.
COVID-19 is unprecedented in both the magnitude of the shock and type of shock it has produced. Public officials, businesses, medical communities and the working public have no experience in how to effectively handle the problem. Add to this an abundance of data and opinions without clear authoritative sourcing and the prescription for harsh discourse and divided politics. Any action taken or not taken, opening or closing the state, will, therefore be controversial.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made an early decision and quickly followed California in social-distancing and shelter-in-place. Consequently, Texas has had both a low infection and correspondingly low death rate. Most would say a job well done. However, the implications for businesses and particularly small businesses, were profound. Despite the federal government providing supplemental funding, many businesses in Texas find themselves financially strained. Should we open in favor of employment and business survival, or do we remain closed in protection of public health, especially the most vulnerable aging population? Governor Abbot will be criticized regardless of his decision.
Gov. Abbott made the difficult but right decision because it allowed people the choice to go back to work. It permits people to make the decision they think is best for themselves and others while still incorporating social distancing. This decision helped people who were struggling with their mortgages and rent like salon workers. COVID-19 cases will increase with the reopening of Dallas and as a result people will criticize Gov. Abbott, but I think this was the best decision that could have been made for the Dallas people.
Looking at federal recommendations and advice of medical experts, after about a month of the stay at home order, Governor Abbott made the decision to reopen Dallas on April 30. While he accepted the input of many, Abbott made the final decision. While each governor is making their own decision based on their states’ infection data, those from the Republican Party have a bias toward commerce, employment and the need to avoid deepening the recession. The Democratic governors appear to have a bias towards retaining shelter-in-place for public safety. This fact, the distinct party divide of the governors lined up with their decision making, has inflamed this public debate into a rather nasty no-win situation for governors everywhere.
So what does a reopened Dallas look like? This means that businesses like restaurants are allowed to open but only at 25 percent capacity. Picking the 25 percent capacity for reopening will incorporate social distancing into every business operation. However, people will determine if that is the wrong or right answer for them without pressure. Revoking the stay-at-home order allows these businesses to make their own safety decisions for employees weighed against the benefits of reopening. Customers can make their own decision whether to visit these businesses or not.
Restaurants responded by opening their doors very soon after Gov. Abbott’s statement. With bills piling up, many were thrilled to get back to work. Dallas salons finally opened on May 8 with some already booked solid for at least three weeks. Besides staying at 25 percent capacity, businesses have taken the precaution to wear masks and gloves. Each business will make decisions about cleaning procedures, keeping in mind the risks involved. Some will make more use of spacing, others will make more use of disinfecting surfaces, and some might do both. Businesses have been actively communicating through email and social media what their specific policies are. However, just as expected, the media is in a frenzy either applauding the governor for bold action or criticising him for risking a new infection wave. Hindsight alone will judge his action. I, for one, support it.
Story by Julia Donovan, Castoff Editor
Photo by Kate Clark