Over the past several months, Texans have faced a challenge the likes of which we have never seen, an invisible enemy that threatens both life and livelihood. But through these trying times, Texans have responded with resolve. And most importantly, they have largely followed the best practices to protect their health and the health of those around them.
As a result of this unified effort, Governor Greg Abbott this week announced the first steps to re-open the state of Texas. These steps are based on recommendations from leading medical experts as well as the members of the governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, of which I am chairman. Our team is actively working for the people of Texas to gradually reopen the state while at the same time containing COVID-19.
The governor has made it clear: we cannot underestimate the threat posed by this virus. We know that COVID-19 can be spread by infected people who appear to have few or no symptoms. Immediately returning to business as usual is simply not an option. It would risk setting our state back while putting more lives in jeopardy.
Instead, we must gradually open Texas in a way that both restores people’s livelihoods while prioritizing the health and safety of Texans.
That requires all Texans doing their part.
Just as Texans united to slow the spread of the virus by staying home and practicing proper social distancing and hygiene guidelines, we need all Texans to work together to reopen Texas.
To guide this effort and address the challenges we face, the governor has laid out a series of actions that will serve as the foundation for reopening the economy.
The first is special guidance for higher risk Texans such as those who are 65 and older or those with underlying medical conditions. We urge these vulnerable Texans to continue following strong social distancing guidelines and to stay at home.
A second component is the ramping up of testing in Texas along with a robust statewide contact tracing program. This will help Texans identify whether they have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19 so they can be tested and self-isolate if necessary. Such an effort will protect both liberty and privacy.
With these two central pieces in place, the Governor also announced standard health protocols for businesses that will allow for a limited reopening of certain establishments and activities, including restaurants, retailers, movie theaters, museums and libraries, certain outdoor sports, and single person offices.
These health protocols include actions that businesses, their employees and customers, and all Texans must take to safely return to work and daily activities. For businesses, that means enforcing social distancing guidelines, cleaning and disinfecting their places of business, screening employees, and requiring them to wash or sanitize their hands. For individual Texans, that means self-screening for temperature or other symptoms before entering an establishment, washing or sanitizing their hands, and wearing masks or face coverings.
Texans are ready to get back to work. They are ready to return to some level of normalcy. But we can only do this if every Texan plays his or her part. Whether you’re an employer, an employee, or a customer, we all bear the responsibility to protect our health and the health of those around us. By uniting around these practices and taking the necessary precautions, we will open up our state for business and get Texans back to work. We will contain the spread of COVID-19. And we will make it through this together.
James Huffines is a retired banker who is chairman of the governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas.