UPDATED April 26.
Collin County’s top elected official told Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday that it’s time to end the economic shutdown imposed in response to the Chinese coronavirus outbreak and get Texas families back to work.
At the governor’s request, County Judge Chris Hill submitted his recommendations for safely reopening the state’s economy.
Hill said state-ordered restrictions to address the public health threat from COVID-19 and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed have also increased the threat to families’ financial health to a dangerous level.
“It’s time for Texas families to get back to work,” he said. “In doing so, we can successfully address both challenges facing Texas today. If we ignore either threat at the expense of the other, we all lose.”
Hill advised Abbott to:
- Immediately eliminate the artificial distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” businesses, as all businesses are essential to the families who depend on them for their livelihoods.
- Encourage businesses and customers to take precautions to stay safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Encourage people with underlying health complications or at increased risk of severe illness to limit their exposure to others.
- Continue advocating for increased availability of testing supplies and PPE resources.
- Leave state regulation waivers in place for at least six months and determine which may be waived permanently.
- Declare a statewide sales tax holiday.
Hill also noted the perverse impact on hospitals and healthcare workers caused by restrictions meant to prepare for a worst-case scenario that failed to materialize:
Our Collin County hospitals are significantly underutilized and have additional capacity, so much so that they are anticipating financial losses and are actually starting to furlough and lay off medical staff. In a cruel twist of irony, the very restrictions that were enacted to save our hospital capacity could actually lead to a reduction in hospital capacity, particularly in rural communities across the state.
State Sen. Angela Paxton (R–McKinney), whose Senate District 8 lies mostly within Collin County, sent recommendations to Abbott on Thursday urging him to “immediately open the marketplace … based on compliance, rather than a designation of essential or non-essential.”
Abbott is set to announce on Monday plans from his strike force for a phased reopening of the Texas economy. Several states have already rolled out plans and begun getting people back to work.
As of April 25, over 1.7 million Texans have filed unemployment claims in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns. In Collin County, over 10,000 people a week are filing for unemployment. COVID-19 has claimed 14 lives out of 609 known cases in Collin.