coronavirus

Reopening Texas: Finding a Balance Between Public Safety and Economic Security

Yes, people need to get back to work, but ultimately, there is a highly contagious and deadly virus that is still spreading. What are the long and short term effects?

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Now comes the tough task across the country of trying to find a balance between public safety and economic security.

Yes, people need to get back to work, but ultimately, there is a highly contagious and deadly virus that is still spreading. So how can we do it all while still during our best to flatten the curve? 

We talked to the University of North Texas Professor and Dean of the College of Health and Public Service about where he stands.

Are the right measures in place to protect the health of Texans?

Dr. Neal Chumbler says simply, we haven't tested enough people, and the number of cases continues to rise in the DFW area and across the state.

Then there are concerns over managing social distance and liabilities that come along with that. How will it be managed if left up to business owners to protect the health of their employees?

Now comes the tough task across the country of trying to find a balance between public safety and economic security.

“So I think the key is that risk, managing the risk versus the benefits. It's very sensitive that people need to go back to work, it's very important that people go back to work, but also we don't need the virus to spread or to spike again in cases over the next couple months,” said Chumbler. “The health care system is already been inundated with intensive care units. We want to make sure there is enough hospital beds in the worst-case scenario if the cases were to increase.”

Chumbler says many of those being called back to work first, are those workers who need a paycheck the most, those who were not able to work virtually and were furloughed. These are often lower-paid workers. They’re also the most at risk if they get sick and can’t afford medical care.

"The police officers, the firefighters, first responders, the health care workers that we have. We see that the data of those professions, those are the individuals that are more likely to get the coronavirus, and now we're going to bring employees back in the workplace and be essentially face to face with a lot more human beings and then the virus could spread," said Chumbler. “The key is to have a mask, and to the extent at which masks are going to be mandatory is unclear, it's more going to be from a voluntary standpoint, it’s recommended. But, when I go outside, which I don’t go out very much, I have a mask on at all times.”

Chumbler says the next two to four weeks are going to be watched very closely from a public health perspective as the state tries to slowly restart its economy.

Many are anxious for economic activity as more than 1.5 million people across Texas have filed for unemployment. 

Many businesses are saying, we've got to start somewhere. Today is a start, but the University of North Texas economic professor Dr. Michael Carroll says he believes the recovery is going to be far slower than what most people think.

Carroll says the hope would be to go back to work, and things will immediately go back to the way they were.

That won't be the case. In fact, Carroll says as much as we want to return to some sense of normalcy, it will be a while before people feel comfortable returning to business as usual.

"There'll be a number of glitches in the supply chains, you know not everybody is going to be up and running so you will have holes in the supply chain as companies start back up manufacturing attempts to go back up,” said Carroll. “And there's got to be the testing, you go to make sure the workers are safe, then there the liability issues to deal with."

There is good news - Carroll says, we didn't shut down for any economic reason, so everything is still there. He says it's just a question of getting it moving again: recreating a global supply chain and making sure that we can move goods internationally without too much in terms of delays.

But, Carroll says we have a long road ahead of us before we're back online and able to experience a new sense of normalcy in Texas, and across the country.


Coronavirus Cases in Texas

Locations on the map are approximate county locations and are not intended to identify where any infected people live.

Case data pulled from a variety of sources including county health departments, Texas Department of State Health Services, KXAN-TV in Austin and KPRC-TV in Houston.


Contact Us