Starting Tuesday, the mayor of Colleyville said residents can attend churches and other places of worship so long as social distancing guidelines are followed. He also said starting Friday they can dine at restaurants with outdoor patios — so long as tables are spaced apart — and have one-on-one visits with salon establishments, gyms and massage therapists.
With that announcement, Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton on Tuesday appears to be the first mayor in Texas to move ahead with plans to relax stay-at-home orders aimed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, well before the governor has signed off on such actions statewide.
The move by the city was first made public in a “Declaration of Disaster” signed by Newton and City Secretary Christine Loven, despite signs that the outbreak is just beginning to strike some parts of the country. It’s also unclear whether the city’s declaration has any teeth, given Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide executive order, which mandates all non-essential businesses shut down through the end of the month.
“While safety remains our top priority, we also recognize the need to re-open our city. We are beginning that process in a methodical and safe way,” Newton said in a letter to Colleyville employers which accompanied the proclamation, according to The Texan.
A spokesman for Gov. Greg Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Colleyville’s new order trumps the governor’s. Abbott last Friday announced he would be rolling out a plan to reopen the Texas economy, with additional announcements set for April 27 and sometime in May.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission told The Texas Tribune that generally any restaurants operating in defiance of Abbott’s orders could be subject to warnings and a possible license suspension. A spokesman for the TABC said that it has not had to issue any citations thus far and has been working to inform and educate business owners.
But across the country, governors of red states have been weighing steps toward lifting stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders and reviving their stalled economies. Georgia plans to reopen bowling alleys, hair and nail salons, fitness centers and massage therapy businesses; in Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee said that he was not extending his “safer-at-home” order that is set to expire on April 30.
In Texas, Abbott said the process of re-opening the economy will be a staggered one, driven by data and science. Last week, the governor named a “statewide strike force” devoted to getting the economy up and running. The group will oversee what the governor described as a phased reopening.