Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton is allowing some businesses in his city to reopen this week, provided they are open for appointment only and not to the general public, while also allowing residents to attend religious services in person so long as they observe physical distancing guidelines.
The amended disaster declaration signed this week by Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton, still encourages religious services be conducted through remote or virtual methods, but on-site services are no longer prohibited. The latter is a position reinforced by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday who offered guidance on the governor's existing executive order saying local and state government may not close houses of worship and that orders given may not prohibit people from providing or obtaining religious services.
Under the mayor's amended declaration, people can now also dine in the outdoor patio portions of restaurants if the tables are spaced apart. It is also allowing one-on-one visits to gyms, massage establishments, and salons by appointment only and with the use of PPE. Fitness instruction, specifically, allows one-on-one interaction or in limited classes with no more than 10 students subject to social distancing requirements.
“Governor Abbott’s orders say they are closed to the ‘general public.’ Our interpretation is they are closed to the general public. What we are allowing is the businesses by appointment, so if they have an appointment, they are controlling who is coming into the businesses – not the general public,” Newton said. “The order that Colleyville put forth does not require anyone to open. It does put some more decision authority in their hands.”
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Safety remains a top priority but they recognize the need to reopen the city, Newton wrote in the letter. This is the beginning of the reopening process in a “methodical and safe way,” according to Newton.
“In Tarrant County, there’s about 5,800 hospitals available,” he told NBC 5 in an interview Tuesday. “Only about half of them are being utilized today. I think about 123 ventilators in Tarrant County, I think, are being used for COVID – that’s less than 4%.“
Though the news was greeted with initial enthusiasm by many small business owners, calls to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation revealed many aren't eligible to participate.
Jennifer Duranczyk owns Fusion Whole Body Recovery.
After suffering along with other businesses during years of construction along State Highway 26, she said she believes the city's reacting quickly because it knows they need the help.
“I do appreciate their attempt to show small businesses that they care, but I just wish they would do it in a more productive way than get our hopes up," Duranczyk said.
The TDLR told her the same thing it told NBC in a statement Tuesday.
"Gov. Abbott's Executive Order GA-16, issued April 17, requires people to avoid visiting massage establishments, cosmetology salons, and barber shops. Executive Order GA-16 is in effect statewide until April 30, or until amended or rescinded by the governor, and supersedes local orders regarding who may visit these businesses. Under the latest order, TDLR licensees can sell products out of their salons or barbershops, without clients coming into the shop, starting on Friday, April 24."
That means by opening Friday, she and others, like Spirit of Lotus Healing Arts owner, Neelou Saleh, would put their licenses at risk.
Saleh said she's already prepared with the personal protective equipment she'd need to safely work with one client at a time.
She's optimistic that this move by Colleyville will push the state to do the same.
“I’m hoping it will be encouraging for maybe to let the state let local governments decide what’s best for their own community’s," Saleh said.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said there are conversations among county and regional leaders frequently, but he claims these changes were never brought before the county. In recent meetings at the Tarrant County Commissioners Court, Whitley has repeatedly said the county needed to “stay the course” and eyed the first weeks of May as the earliest restrictions could be eased and even then it would be done in stages.
“What we’ve tried to do is maintain consistency and when someone says, OK – I’m going to go out and do contrary to what the governor, as well as what other local cities have decided to do, and the county, then that makes it a little more difficult,” Whitley said. “We put those things in place because we feel like they’re the best things for our citizens and for the community, but we’re not a police state and we never will be, and we expect people to use good sense. Good common sense.”
Abbott on Tuesday addressed the new proclamations, saying he has had a chance to read it. Abbott said most of the policies, as written, “tried to parallel or be in agreement” to his executive orders.
“So, to the extent that there may be a strategy that he’s implementing that he thinks may be consistent with my executive order, I’m sure that my staff will make sure that he understands what is in agreement, which much of his proclamation is in agreement with my executive order,” Abbott said. “If there’s something not in agreement, we’ll be happy to talk to him about it.”
Abbott is expected to make an additional announcement on the reopening of businesses in Texas on April 27.
To read Colleyville's guidelines, click here.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.