Border leaders ‘cautiously optimistic’ at reopening of Texas economy

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Merchants, public must continue taking common-sense measures to avoid spike in COVID-19, business groups say

Downtown El Paso remains a ghost town amid COVID-19 restrictions on non-essential businesses. (photo by Julian Resendiz)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The border business community responded with cautious optimism to Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen the Texas economy by May 1.

“The governor’s order is a reasoned, well-balanced decision that helps protect precious human life while making sure that we preserve businesses, put people back to work and boost the local economy and the Texas economy,” said John Barela, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance in El Paso.

Retailers, restaurants and movie theaters can reopen May 1, Gov. Abbott announces

And while he and other business leaders are hopeful that many border families will be back at work soon, they urge merchants and the public to continue observing common-sense precautions to prevent a spike in the COVID-19 cases that led to the closing of non-essential businesses and the issuing of stay-at-home orders.

“It’s very important that we continue to wear masks whenever possible when we’re in public, that we continue to socially distance ourselves from others who are shopping and that businesses also practice that same level of precaution,” Barela said.

The crisis has so deeply changed the perspective of business owners that many may not open right away.

“Once the word gets out and people know what will be allowed and what won’t, I would suspect that a great majority of businesses will begin to open, particularly if they see that’s what their neighbors are doing,” said George Salom, president of the Central Business Association. “They may open and test the waters as to what the public’s response is. Does it make sense to open up shop and start paying the overhead if the sales aren’t there? I don’t think it’s going to be a wave of openings; I think it’s going to be little by little.”

The Downtown El Paso business leader said the economy needs to reopen as long as merchants and the public follow healthy and safe procedures.

He urged local government officials make sure that the businesses that decide to open do it in a safe manner.

“We don’t want to have a bad relapse or another set of closures or more people getting infected, sick or dying,” Salom said. “As a landlord and member of the business community, I’m grateful that (the governor) thinks we’re at that point. As a human being and family man, I do worry about family safety. Those have to go hand in hand if we’re going to be successful in the long term.”

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