Chamber sends second letter to governor to fully open Texas

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The Ozona Chamber of Commerce is sending a second letter to Gov. Greg Abbott asking that the governor open the state to full capacity.

Chamber President Shanon Biggerstaff presented the letter to the Crockett County Commissioners’ Court Monday during the commissioners’ regular meeting.

This second letter contains a list of more than 115 businesses and residents that support the chamber’s efforts to fully reopen Texas. The chamber sent the first letter to Abbott’s office on Sept. 11.

“At the very least, we urge you to discontinue the one-size-fits all approach and allow communities who have not seen a spike in COVID-19 cases for weeks to open to full capacity. Ozona is an Interstate community. While traffic is substantially down, we are hosting pipeline workers from across the state. For the past three months the Chamber Visitor Center traffic consists of 76% in-state traffic and 24% out-of-state traffic. That does not include travelers who do not stop by our center but drive directly to a needed service in Ozona. Suppliers and service companies are visiting from surrounding communities on a daily basis, and yet, we still have no spike in cases,” the letter states. “Meanwhile, businesses continue to struggle, and the daily lives of Crockett County residents are unnecessarily disrupted in an environment that rejects the speculation and models originally predicted in terms of infection or mortality rate. The Minimum Standard Health Protocols you have mandated are proving to be more severe and economically devastating than the virus itself.”

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services report on Monday, Oct. 12, Crockett County has a total of 166 COVID-19 cases, seven total fatalities, 158 recoveries and one active case. The county has also conducted 1,054 total COVID-19 tests. New cases in Texas have dramatically fallen since summer and the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has leveled off around 3,870.

Monday’s numbers were 795,126 total cases statewide, 2,384 daily new cases, 16,558 total facilities, 1 newly reported fatality, 705,189 estimated recoveries and 75,034 estimated active cases.

Biggerstaff told the commissioners that while local businesses are open, they are paying their bills but not making a profit. She also said that events like football games, softball games have been going on in town, as well as out of town firefighters and pipeline employees have been in the community and cases have not spiked within the last 30 days.

“Oil and gas and tourism are two of the top industries in the state of Texas. Both have been devastated,” Biggerstaff said.

Biggerstaff said the commissioners have the ability to submit an exemption.

According to the governor’s website, open.texas.gov, the county judge can submit and exemption to the governor’s Executive Order 29 requiring all Texans to wear face coverings in public spaces. Counties with 20 or less positive cases qualify, but the county judge must file the exemption.

County Judge Fred Deaton said he does not plan to file for the exemption in case local COVID-19 cases spike again.

Biggerstaff said some businesses would still require masks, but that local businesses want to be back at full capacity.

On Sept. 17, Gov. Greg Abbott said gyms and exercise facilities, manufacturers, museums and libraries, officebased employers, restaurants and retailers can all open to 75% capacity.

On Oct. 7, the governor announced that bars can open at 50% capacity, as long as their county governments allow it. Areas with high hospitalizations for coronavirus will not be able to reopen.

Abbott also said that businesses currently limited to 50% capacity may now expand to 75% capacity, including establishments like movie theaters, bowling alleys, bingo halls and amusement parks.

“It is time to open up more, provided that safe protocols continue to be followed,” Abbott said. “If everyone continues the safe practices, Texas will be able to contain COVID and we will be able to reopen 100%.”

Commissioner G.L. Bunger said while the county has put restrictions on county facilities, it has not ever put additional restrictions on local businesses. Bunger said the restrictions on the businesses is coming from the governor’s office.

“We are not able to go above what the governor’s order are. We have not put any restrictions above the governor’s orders, except on county facilities. We don’t want to affect our businesses at all, but you saw how fast our number can climb,” said County Judge Fred Deaton. “People are going to make their choice in what they do. We don’t want people to get sick and we don’t want businesses to hut. I know several counties that have fully opened up and had to shut back down again.”

During different phases of the pandemic, Abbott has taken different approaches for how much power to give local authorities.

When the virus first reached Texas, he deferred to local officials, and many issued their own versions of stay-at-home orders.

A month later, the governor was overseeing the reopening of the state — and in the process blocked local governments from being able to implement stronger restrictions, such as requiring people to use masks while in public.

Biggerstaff said that she was just sharing information with the commissioners as to how the businesses and community feels.

“People are ready to open back up. They have the tools with the protocols,” Biggerstaff said.

As with the Sept. 11 letter, the second will also be sent to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd’s office, State Rep. Andrew Murr’s office and State Senator Pete Flores’ office.

For more information on supporting the chamber’s efforts, call (325) 392-3737 or visit ozona.com.

For more information on the governor’s orders reopening Texas, visit open.texas. gov.

‘People are ready to open back up. They have the tools with the protocols.’ Shanon Biggerstaff Ozona Chamber of Commerce President