As the governor authorizes more Texas businesses to open, local officials urge residents to remain vigilant – the coronavirus danger hasn’t ended.
Bars can open Friday along with bowling alleys, bingo halls and rodeo style events. Youth clubs and gyms got the green light for Monday and youth sports before the end of the month.
Restaurants can move to 50 percent occupancy.
All of the activities, El Campo Police Chief Terry Stanphill said, will be monitored by the police department. “We will respond to any complaints and do spot checks as well,” Stanphill said.
As the city and nation get closer to “normal,” the concern of overconfidence is raised.
“I know everybody is ready to be done with this and we’ve been very fortunate,” Stanphill said. “But this (COVID-19) is like an angry snake, it can rear up at any time.”
People continuing to wear masks is an encouraging sign, he added. “I’m really proud of a lot of people.”
The City Inspections Department has been coordinating with businesses to make sure they know just how many people can be inside.
All head counts, Building Official Liz Staff said, include everyone inside the building at the time.
“So if you have an occupancy load of 100 and can open at 25 percent (like a small bar or other business), that’s 25, but then if you have five wait staff there, you’re down to 20. They have to decide how do you justify the staff and the A/C?” Staff said.
The police department will be working with businesses including restaurants that are looking forward to being allowed a 50 percent occupancy this week.
Large restaurants with banquet rooms will be a concern as that space counts in the occupancy load, but may be unused putting too many people together in one area.
The goal, Stanphill said, is safety when occupancy loads are questioned. “It takes a lot of tact. We’re used to rules, policy and the law. You are on one side of it or the other, but with COVID-19 there’s a big gray area,” Stanphill said.
Staff says she hopes safety measures continue as occupancy rates continue to rise and stay at home restrictions are lifted.
In addition to retail business, garage sales are now permitted, she said, but warns people to be cautious when hosting or visiting such events. “They need to social distance. They need to be careful,” she said.
Shortly before the governor’s speech Monday, the Wharton County Office of Emergency Management announced one additional COVID-19 case had been identified in the county, bringing the full tally to 43.
The good news is all but 10 of those people have recovered from the virus sweeping the nation and the world, according to County Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Kirkland.