Some Express Concerns About Governor's COVID-19 Reopening Plan

Two business leaders facing losses from business closures want public health protected, too

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The plan Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s announced Monday to reopen restaurants, movie theaters, and retail stores on Friday drew worries from some Dallas business leaders who think it is too fast.

Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce President Kiyundra Jones said she knows people who’ve been ill and some who have died. She said she was surprised and concerned about the Governor’s announcement.

“It’s just a complex, unfortunate situation and very few of us know how to handle it,” Jones said.

At the grocery store and other essential businesses that were open already, Jones said she has seen many people who have not complied with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ order to wear face coverings.

“We’re still seeing people who are just not taking this thing seriously,” Jones said.

On the other hand, Jones is a realtor and she has seen the damage done to her Chamber of Commerce members by the stay at home orders. 

The Chamber has extensive information about the disease and relief programs posted online.

Many businesses have closed for good, unable to survive without income.

Four disappeared overnight without notice during the shutdown from a small Jefferson Boulevard shopping center owned by Amanda Moreno Lake.

“They just moved out. They couldn't stand the situation. It's just horrible,” Lake said.

She owns other Oak Cliff properties where businesses are closed, many of them for good. She said landlords have expenses too and can not afford to lose tenants.

But Lake also said she had mixed feelings and is worried about the Governor’s phased opening plan.

“Having no vaccine is a scary part and having no cure for this. And there's so many unknowns. I've never experienced anything like this in my life,” Lake said.

Another reopening plan presented last week to a Dallas City Council Committee came with input from North Texas businesses from the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the North Texas Commission.

It had detailed recommendations from cleaning and social distancing as the Governor’s plan does but put businesses in different phases.

Phase one of that plan was offices where workers could be widely separated with little or no public contact.

Phase two was warehouses and factories where workers would also have separation and little public contact.

Phase three of that plan was free-standing retail establishments where public access could be regulated and to go delivery used as an option.

Phase four in that plan was hair salons and barbers.

Phase five is where restaurants would reopen.

The governor will reopen restaurants and movie theaters in Phase one of his plan with an initial limit of 25% occupancy. Hair salons and barbershops could come by mid-May in the Governor’s plan if illness does not spike in the next two weeks.

“I think safety is important. I think social distancing is important,” Lake said. “We do have to come up with a plan and be responsible.”

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins posted tweets calling for a slower reopening before the Governor’s plan was announced.

Monday evening, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson released the following statement in regards to Gov. Abbott's plan.

“The governor has made a decision and, under Texas law, he has the final say in these matters, so now it is incumbent upon all Texans to ensure that this plan is successful. Dallas residents and local leaders have worked hard to flatten the curve of COVID-19's spread, and we must continue our commitment to social distancing practices, good hygiene, protecting our vulnerable populations, and doing all we can to increase testing and contact tracing.”

Late Monday night, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a statement in response to Gov. Abbott's plan, saying: “The first priority of those you elect is to keep you safe. I've asked Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang and physician leaders, including those specializing in infectious disease and epidemiology from area hospitals, to carefully review the Governor's orders and will wait to hear from them. Most other plans that open businesses in phases don’t put places like movie theaters in the first group to open. The orders have changed but the science that will keep us safe has not. I believe North Texans will focus not on “what can they do” but rather “what should they do”. It will be imperative for North Texans to make good choices particularly where these orders veer from the advice of public health experts. Following science is the best way to keep safe and open the economy.”

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