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Gov. Abbott Faces Pressure To Restart Texas Economy Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels CC0: https://bit.ly/34QVb2Z

On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the first phase of his plan to reopen the state's economy, which has been mostly shuttered due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, by May 1. 

The viral outbreak has crippled industries including hospitality and entertainment. Bars, restaurants and retail stores have cut down on business volume or closed altogether, costing employees their jobs. More than 1 million Texans have filed for unemployment relief since mid-March.

But jumpstarting the economy in the midst of a pandemic won't be easy, especially considering Texas' COVID-19 testing capacity lags behind nearly every other state. Without definitive data, the actual the number of cases is still unknown. 

Abbott said measures to slow the coronavirus' spread including shelter-in-place orders and social distancing guidelines are proving successful. Public health experts warn that these efforts could be undone if the state jumps the gun on going back to business as usual.

Reopening the economy will happen in phases, Abbott said, with input from a new advisory council comprised of both business leaders and medical professionals. 

First steps include reopening state parks, lifting restrictions on nonessential surgeries, and allowing stores to offer consumers a "retail-to-go" pickup option. Next steps are expected to be announced April 27. 

How will state leaders decide when it's safe to lift or reduce various restrictions aimed at flattening the curve? Will we see more COVID-19 testing across Texas? 

What are the public health risks of reopening too soon? What are the economic risks of waiting too long? What power do local governments have to determine the best course of action for reopening their communities?

Will some businesses be allowed to open before others and what guidelines will they have to follow? How long could it take Texas to make a full economic recovery? 

Guests:

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*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, April 21.

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Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.