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More businesses open up in Young County

Non-essential businesses were allowed to reopen on May 1 with limited capacity, as ordered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. On April 27, Gov. Abbott issued Executive Order GA-18, which provides for an expanded reopening of the state’s economy as part of a “safe, strategic plan to Open Texas” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Phase I of Abbott’s plan to open Texas, restaurants, retail stores, shopping malls and movie theaters are allowed to reopen with a limit of 25% capacity. Gyms, bars, barbershops and salons are still closed by executive order. Gov. Abbott suggested in his address on April 27 that those businesses could open by mid-May as part of Phase II.

Young, Jack, Stephens and other rural counties will be able to reopen businesses with up to 50% capacity, if those counties meet a set of guidelines mandated in the governor’s Open Texas report and files an attestation form with Texas DSHS.

Within the report, it states rural counties may, on an individualized basis, increase capacity for restaurants, retail, shopping malls, museums, libraries and/or movie theaters, if the county judge certifies and affirms to DSHS a list of the following requirements:

- The county had five or fewer COVID-19 laboratory confirmed cases on April 30, 2020 or, at a later date, five or fewer active COVID-19 cases as verified by DSHS.
- The county has created a list of testing opportunities in the county or the area.
- The county has been in contact with its designated regional advisory council to ensure the community is prepared for any needed health care transfers.
- The county has provided public notice to the residents of the county, including: signs and symptoms of COVID-19; recommended health and safety protocols in line with CDC guidance; information regarding how residents can get tested in the area; and a link to the DSHS website where residents can go to learn about community spread in nearby communities, in order to help county residents understand their risk to exposure if they travel regularly outside of the county.
- The county has contacted each of the following types of facilities located in the county to ensure they are complying with HHSC and CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19: nursing homes; assisted living facilities; industrial, agricultural, or business facilities with a significant number of employees; and city or county jails.
- The county is equipped and prepared to protect vulnerable populations, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
- The county has documented procedures to be activated if a resident becomes COVID-19 positive, including procedures to take appropriate measures as necessary in line with the plan to open Texas.
- The county has contacted DSHS in order to create a plan to ensure contact tracing will occur within 48 hours of a positive test reported to DSHS.

Community members wishing to visit a dine-in restaurant are encouraged to call ahead to ensure that space is available.

Young County Judge John Bullock filed an attestation form with Dr. Massey, director DSHS Region 2/3, and Texas DSHS on Wednesday, April 29, to request that Young County open to 50% capacity. It was approved on Wednesday afternoon, but Young County could still revert to 25% capacity if any of the following occurs:

- Five consecutive testing / tracking intervals with positivity rates greater than 12% in that interval.
- The county has more than three positive cases per 1,000 residents.
- Less than 15% of the surge capacity in hospitals for the catchment area is available.

Under GA-18, Gov. Abbott may return any county to essential services only.

It remains unclear what consists of a ‘testing/tracking interval’. The Graham Leader is continuing to seek out clarification on what makes up an interval. Despite not knowing what the intervals will be, Young County Local Health Authority Dr. Pat Martin believes it will encourage more testing.

“I’m not sure what their tracking interval is,” Dr. Martin said in a text message. “We would have to have that percentage or above of tests be positive for several tracking intervals. That encourages aggressive testing because if you are just testing people when they are very sick you are going to have a higher positive rate.  We are testing everyone with respiratory symptoms and I think that will help our rate stay low.”

Bullock reached out to the DSHS Regional 2/3 office for clarity.

“It has not been explained to the DSHS regional offices what the time intervals will be for tracking positivity rates,” a DSHS Region 2/3 representative said in an email to Bullock.

The office hopes to have more information by the next regional judges meeting on May 5.

Bullock issued a third amendment to his Local Declaration of Imminent Disaster, which went into effect midnight Friday, May 1. In the amendment, Bullock cancels both exhibits in his declaration and directs Young County to follow Executive Order GA-18, issued by Gov. Abbott on April 27.

The Graham Leader

GRAHAM OFFICE
620 Oak Street
P.O. Box 600
Graham, Texas 76450
Phone: (940) 549-7800
Fax: (940) 228-0589