At an April 17 press conference, Gov. Greg Abbott said reopening the Texas economy during the coronavirus outbreak would come in phases, and be guided by data and doctors. The initial steps included loosening surgery restrictions at medical facilities, allowing all retail stores to provide product pickups, and reopening state parks.
He also announced that all schools would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.
Abbott named what he called a “statewide strike force” devoted to getting the economy going again, chaired by Austin banker James Huffines. Veteran lobbyist Mike Toomey will lead its staff. They will gather information, make recommendations, and oversee a phased reopening.
In his executive order, Abbott said effective April 22, current restrictions on surgeries would be loosened. He stressed that Texas had “plenty” of equipment and hospital beds available.
State parks were reopened with certain restrictions, including Big Bend Ranch State Park and Davis Mountains State Park. Both parks will be open for day use only. Specific regulations put in place by Texas Parks and Wildlife require visitors to wear face coverings, maintain a six-foot distance from individuals outside their party, and prohibit groups larger than five.
Additional ways to open Texas will be announced on April 27, and even more in May if the infection rate continues to decline, and if hospitals remain prepared.
Abbott pointed out that economic damage had hit even more Americans than the coronavirus itself, with more than 22 million filing for unemployment since restrictions started, and more than a million in Texas.
“Businesses have shuttered. Paychecks have disappeared. Food bank lines are swelling across Texas as more families seek food that they desperately need,” he said.
In Brewster County, for the period March 29-April 17, 266 claimants were on unemployment.
As of press time, 205,399 Texans had been tested for COVID-19, with 20,196 testing positive, or about 9.8%, and 517 deaths, or about 2.5% of those testing positive. No cases of the coronavirus had yet been identified in the Tri-County.
Locally, U.S. Senator John Cornyn last week announced that Alpine-Casparis Municipal Airport will receive $20,000 in coronavirus relief funds. The funding was appropriated by Congress last month as part of the CARES Act, through the Department of Transportation.
Said Cornyn, “As Texas reels from the economic destruction caused by the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important our airports have the resources they need to weather the storm.”
Both Brewster County and the City of Alpine still have orders in place directing all individuals living in the county and the city to stay at home, prohibiting all public or private gatherings of any size, shutting down all but essential businesses, banning all travel except for essential activities, and imposing a county-wide 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew. The order is effective until 11:59 p.m. on April 30.
Fort Davis ISD last week issued a revised 2019-2020 school calendar. May 8 will be the last day teachers will send assignments to students. On May 15, students must have all assignments submitted to teachers online or delivered to the school.
Students will receive assigned dates and times between May 18-20 to turn in all school materials and equipment. Details for the graduation ceremony will be provided as soon as possible by letter, student email, the district website, and the Fort Davis Indians Facebook page.