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Local Health Experts Are Coming Up With A Plan To Reopen San Antonio -- Safely

Though restaurants in the Quarry remain open for curbside to-go service, a majority of the other businesses are closed, including the Regal Alamo Quarry theater and Gold's Gym.
Kathleen Creedon | Texas Public Radio

In conjunction with an economic team, a nine-person task force comprised of local medical and public health experts will advise San Antonio City Council on the best ways to reopen the economy. 

Social distancing restrictions have seemingly been effective at slowing coronavirus' local spread, keeping the number of cases low enough to prevent overwhelming area hospitals. The safety measures also caused an economic downslide and considerable job losses as non-essential businesses remain shuttered. 

State and local officials have to balance the residents' safety with Texas' economic future. Health experts worry that lifting restrictions too soon could cause a spike in new COVID-19 cases. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Monday that some businesses can reopen this week. Museums, restaurants, libraries, movie theaters and retail stores are allowed to resume operations Friday, May 1, at 25% capacity. 

On Tuesday, the local Health Transition Team will present recommendations to San Antonio City Council for best practices to safely restart the economy. How will their input work in tandem with that of the joint Economic Transition Team? What if they conflict with statewide efforts to ease restrictions?

Are some new coronavirus case numbers inevitable once social distancing guidelines are pulled back? If so, what is an acceptable number? If there is a flare up -- defined by Gov. Abbott as "an increase in hospitalizations, deaths and hostpots" -- will restrictions be reimposed? Who makes that call?

People can be infected and asymptomatic, unknowingly infecting others. Testing everyone would be a massive effort, but would it work to end the pandemic sooner? Will testing become even more widely available?

Successfully reopening of the economy relies on the trust and faith of residents. What resources are needed to ensure some level of safety? How will officials be able to promise the public it's okay to go back to business as usual? How are other states across the nation easing their social distancing restrictions?

Some protesters are saying the requirement to wear a face mask is a violation of their constitutional rights. If businesses were to reopen and people didn't wear face masks, would that lead to more cases?

Are there more tactics to monitor the virus' spread? Is contact tracing being done in Bexar County? How has using models to predict the spread of COVID-19 worked so far? 


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*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, April 28.

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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.