Chamber of Commerce asking Gov. Greg Abbott to fully reopen Texas

  • Ozona Chamber
    Ozona Chamber

The Ozona Chamber of Commerce is sending a message to Gov. Greg Abbott that all of Texas needs to be reopened.

The letter, which is dated Sept. 11, was mailed to all chamber members asking local businesses and residents for their support.

The letter states:

“Dear Governor Abbott, On behalf of our business members and residents, the Ozona Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center is contacting you regarding your consideration to re-open Texas.

Let us first begin by stating that we can only imagine the difficulty of navigating through these times, and can sympathize with the demanding task at hand. We understand that you are fielding concerns from virtually all directions. Weighing this input to try and reach a positive outcome is challenging at best. Please know that we appreciate your exhaustive efforts.

Secondly, we urge you to fully re-open the state with utmost dispatch.

In talking with many people who are struggling to keep their business doors open and the public in general, following are the prominent frustrations that have been conveyed to our office.

There is much frustration regarding the “one-size-fits-all” approach, in addition to the inconsistent array of arbitrary mandates towards businesses, attractions and public events. Some communities have seen fewer cases of COVID-19, yet mandates and regulations are being forced upon them at the expense of their livelihoods. Rural communities and mom and pop businesses in particular are suffering.

Grocery stores can welcome 50% of their capacity with social distancing, but a state or theme park with vast amounts of open land and air circulation for that matter, cannot be open.

Customers can sit side by side or across from one another in a restaurant and have a cocktail, but this is not feasible for a bar? There is frustration that schools are operating while many city and state services are not readily available to the tax paying public. Mandates and protocols have been placed under the guise of public safety. Yet, we are receiving daily complaints from “Texans” visiting our center that the state Travel Information Centers (TIC) and restrooms are unavailable to the traveling public. As a community that relies on interstate traffic, travelers are essential to the survival of our local economy.

Business owners are confused about the conflicting signals coming from officials. Many feel that politics seem to be driving this information and curiously it seems to differ from expert to expert, agency to agency, state to state, and town to town. The models originally predicted in terms of infection or mortality rate have not lived up to the initial speculations of the medical community. Businesses are seeking clear, concise, consistent data driven leadership.

It is clear by simply observing the country as a whole that each city and town has been affected differently by COVID-19. There seems to be no “one” expert, at this time, who can determine whether those effects are based on the size of population, temperature or humidity, culture or even politics. Meanwhile the economic devastation has somehow become acceptable.

A portion of our community is fortunate enough to have an employer that can continue to pay their employees, yet other business owners and their employees are considered just casualties.

The most voiced concerns from business owners are, “How many times will I have to shut down my business before this is over?” Or the statement, “I don’t think my business will make it.”

There have been states and countries that have not engaged in lockdowns, mask mandates, capacity regulations, etc., but instead took care to focus on protecting the nursing homes, honed in on quarantining hot spots, and allowed individuals and families to take “personal responsibility for their health”, their businesses, their employees and customers. Schools in the past have always made necessary adjustments when 80% of the staff and students were out for weeks due to other illness such as Influenza.

In your earlier press conferences you stated the goal to manage COVID-19 was to have enough PPE equipment and ventilators so as not to overwhelm Texas hospitals. In the beginning business owners were happy to comply to help you meet those goals. Now that the goal has been met, businesses are questioning the continued justification of further compliance.

Governor Abbott, time and time again you have witnessed first-hand how Texans step up to the plate. Businesses who are already suffering are further burdened with costs of equipment and inventory to meet required mandates that for many will not be financially sustainable. We urge you to be as transparent as possible with the information available to allow businesses and families to implement necessary precautions that suit their individual business model or home.

We believe it makes more sense for the state to focus its resources on communities that see a spike or hot spots, as you initially indicated. We encourage your office to serve rather than to mandate. Allow Texans to be part of the solution rather than being punished for uncontrollable circumstances.

This letter is to urge you to fully reopen Texas as quickly as possible. At this point, Texans, business owners and residents are keenly acquainted with COVID-19 and the impact it can have on their lives. Allow the public to make their own decisions and take, as they have their entire lives, the risks they so choose for themselves, their families, their business, their employees and their customers. Respectfully,

Shanon Biggerstaff-President Ozona Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center”

The letter is also carbon copied to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, State Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, State Senator Pete Flores, R-Pleasanton, and Crockett County Judge Fred Deaton.

The letter was approved by the Chamber Board of Directors, which are Laurie Hale, of Crockett National Bank, Janet Thompson, Crockett County Appraisal District, Stormi Oglesby, J. Cleo Thompson Wellness Center, Amit Patel, Hampton Inn, Jacob Vasquez, Sonic, Cash Jennings, Ozona High School Principal and Buster Reina, Ozona Insurance.

The mission of the Ozona Chamber of Commerce is “to promote a healthy economy and improve the quality of life in our community,” according to their website.

“That’s our role in the community to support our businesses and local development,” said Chamber President Shanon Biggerstaff.

On Sept. 17, Abbott announced that retail stores, restaurants and office buildings, which have been open at 50% capacity, will be permitted to expand to 75% capacity. Bars will still remain closed.

The chamber had its lobby and 24-hour restrooms closed from March 23 to May 1. At the Sept. 14 commissioners’ court meeting, the commissioners approved that all county buildings reopen following the governor’s guidelines.

“We are asking state leaders to move forward. It’s up to each business to decide the direction they want to go,” Biggerstaff said.

For more information about supporting the letter, call Biggerstaff at (325) 392-3737.