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CDC offers guidance for Halloween activities

When the weather cools off, it’s a good sign that holiday season is coming soon to Round Rock. In true 2020 fashion, holidays — including Halloween — will most likely look a little different from previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many traditional Halloween activities, in particular, can be high-risk for spreading viruses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency is offering ideas for several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween this year.

The City of Round Rock does not set a specific day or time for trick-or-treating. If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Lower risk activities

These lower risk activities are listed as the safest alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

Moderate risk activities

  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard)
    • If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 second before and after preparing the bags.
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
    • A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.
    • Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
  • Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
    • Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.

Higher risk activities

Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19

Learn more at cdc.gov

Take a peek inside America’s largest indoor waterpark

Kalahari Resorts and Conventions reveals a never-before-seen inside look at its newest resort in Round Rock, Texas, with a 360-degree video tour of America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark and resort, opening Nov. 12. The video offers a behind-the-scenes view of the property, including a guided tour of construction progress updates.

“We can’t wait to open our doors and welcome the Texas community to the Kalahari experience this fall,” said Kalahari owner Todd Nelson. “We have 1.5 million square feet of space to play and room to roam. It’s been a challenging year, and what better way to get away from the worry and enjoy time having fun together as a family and community.”

Kalahari Resorts also introduces Tim Arnold as resort general manager and Gerson Valasquez as assistant general manager of Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, Round Rock.

As general manager, Tim Arnold will lead day-to-day operations, provide guidance to the management team and serve as the liaison to the regional Round Rock community. Tim brings more than 20 years of hospitality experience with a successful career in luxury resorts and regional multiunit, cutting-edge restaurant and residential properties. Notably, he has held executive leadership roles at Waldorf Astoria, Canyon Ranch, Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, and Interstate Hotels and Resorts.

In his role as assistant general manager, Gerson Valasquez leverages 20 years of experience leading high-volume catering and banquet divisions, managing operations of fine-dining restaurants, and supporting the management of rooms, food and beverage and maintenance departments at properties in Houston, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia.

“Tim and Gerson both bring a strong history of successfully building and leading teams, and we’re confident that they’ll help us bring Kalahari’s beyond-expectations guest experience to Texas,” said Nelson.

Kalahari continues to seek additional talent to join its growing team, estimating hiring 700 employees in 2020 to fill open positions, including lifeguards, managerial staff, culinary staff and information technology work. For more information, visit kalahariresorts.com/kalahari-careers/.

Kalahari Resorts and Conventions will open America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark in Round Rock, Texas, on Nov. 12. The unique all-under-one-roof experience offers state-of-the-art meeting and convention space, delicious dining options, award-winning indoor/outdoor attractions, retail shopping, and Spa Kalahari and Salon. This is the fourth Kalahari Resort, with existing properties in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information about Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, visit KalahariResorts.com/Texas.

Drive-through Career Fair

Kalahari is hiring! The company held a “drive thru” Career Fair from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, at the resort, 3001 Kalahari Blvd., Gate 3. Jobs are available in housekeeping, waterpark, food and beverage, culinary and front office.

Mayor Morgan: City’s economic indicators show promise

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

Any athlete knows that endurance is important. However, as we enter the sixth month of COVID-19′s presence in Central Texas, it’s still unclear how far the finish line lies ahead.

In a survey distributed by the city of Round Rock in April about the effects of COVID-19, 72 percent of respondents said the economic impact of the pandemic on our local community was a primary concern of theirs. We’ve continued monitoring economic conditions and have recently been able to obtain better and more localized data. I’m happy to report the economic decline has not been as deep as we originally prepared ourselves for — however, we still do not completely understand the duration, or how long these conditions will continue to impact our community. In general, Round Rock has fared better than we expected.

While unemployment was still in double digits nationally in July, our local unemployment rate stood at 6.5 percent, down from 10.7 percent in April. However, that’s still triple the percentage it was at the beginning of this year. We are fortunate to have a diverse economy, especially one that is not dependent on oil, as many of our neighbors across Texas are.

Strong sales tax revenues are a big reason that our property tax rate in Round Rock compares favorably to cities around us and across the state, but sales tax is also a volatile revenue source that can drop in times of economic distress. At the start of the pandemic, the city had collected $1.4 million above this year’s expected sales tax revenues. At that time, we thought we might be able to have a surplus of $3 to $4 million by the end of the year that could be used to free up funding for more projects. While we haven’t gained the ground we expected, we haven’t seen a loss in the ground we already had gained. We saw a surge in sales tax revenues in March and April from one specific business – Dell Technologies – and the reopening of retail establishments in June helped re-establish local spending. Most of our major retailers have reopened – IKEA, Round Rock Premium Outlets, movie theaters and some of our big box retailers. Many restaurants have also been able to remain open. However, entertainment venues have suffered a tremendous impact. Bars closed again on June 26 based on statewide orders, and Dell Diamond did not have a minor league season. Other businesses have just not been able to weather the economic downturn. The good news is, although we saw a dip in consumer confidence in April, it has bounced back and is trending upward again.

Occupancy in local hotels is also increasing after a drop in April. Our peak season for tourism is March through June, which saw the biggest impact from COVID-19-related closures. These revenues, which support local tourism efforts and our Sports Capital of Texas initiatives, were down 28 percent for that peak period compared to last year.

 

Overall, development is strong. Although some businesses have not been able to survive the current economic conditions, many of our businesses are using this moment to pivot and thrive. Our local and small businesses are a huge part of our community, because they are owned and supported by people right here in Round Rock. One of my biggest sources of hope through this pandemic was Round Rock Cares, a local fund that was established to support these types of businesses, which raised $419,500 that helped 241 small businesses. I hope we continue that spirit of supporting our local businesses moving forward.

As we take a brief moment to reflect on the positive indicators we are seeing, we know that we cannot let our guard down. We all must continue to follow state and CDC guidelines to suppress the spread of COVID-19 so that our economy can continue to thrive and residents can continue to make a living. By remaining diligent in our health practices and supporting each other, we will continue to get through this together.

Shop the Rock: Civic duty or just the right thing to do? Yes! 

Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts about the City of Round Rock’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget and tax rate. 

shop the rock logoWant better roads? How about better parks? All you have to do is Shop the Rock! 

Seriously, head over to the outlets and buy those shoes, or venture downtown for lunch. It doesn’t matter if you are shopping, dining or getting your pet groomed; your dollars are helping to build our community. What makes this possible? Sales tax.  

For every $100 in purchases by visitors, residents and businesses, the City collects $2 in sales tax revenues. The General Fund, which pays for public safety, parks, library and other basic City services, gets $1, while 50 cents goes to property tax reduction and the remaining 50 cents goes to the Type B Fund to pay for roads and economic development.  

In the proposed fiscal 2021 budget, sales tax revenue makes up $48.3 million of the General Fund budget – that’s 40 percent. Property tax revenue, by comparison, makes up 37 percent.  

Clearly, sales tax revenue is vitally important to Round Rock’s budget. The 50 cents out of every $100 spent in Round Rock that goes into the Type B Fund helps address Round Rock’s biggest challenge: traffic. Since approved by voters in 1997, that half-cent has generated $600 million worth of transportation improvements. It also helps fund the City’s economic development partnership with the Round Rock Chamber, which brings high-quality, high-paying jobs to the community 

And about that 50 cents earmarked for property tax reduction. It reduces the property tax rate for FY 2021 by 14.4 cents. That saves the median homeowner $31 per month, or 25 percent, on their monthly tax bill. 

Paying for new roads and keeping our property tax rate among the lowest in the state — what other reasons do you need to Shop the Rock? 

So next time you see a shirt you love, buy it! Your city – and your tax bill – will thank you. 

Building new roads, maintaining old ones impacts tax rate proposal 

Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts about the City of Round Rock’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget and tax rate. 

Update: The City Council approved on first reading the Fiscal Year 2021 budget and tax rate on Aug. 27.

Building additional capacity for Round Rock’s future transportation needs while also making sure to take care of existing streets requires considerable resources, i.e., money. The proposed fiscal year 2021 budget includes $91.7 million in capital spending for transportation. 

The spending aligns with one of the City Council’s top strategic goalsCity Infrastructure: Today and for Tomorrow. It also addresses what our citizens have told us in every biennial survey we’ve done since 1998: Traffic is the biggest problem facing Round Rock.  

Of course, some of the price tag for tackling a problem of this magnitude falls on residential and commercial property taxpayers.  

The City embarked on a five-year, $240-million road building program called Driving Progress in 2018. The program is funded in part by bonds backed by property taxes, and will improve traffic flows on major corridors like Gattis School Road and University Boulevard. 

In April 2019, the City issued $30 million in certificates of obligation (COs) to kick off funding for the program. This past April, the City Council approved the second round of $30 million in COs. Because lending markets were hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the City was able to borrow the second $30 million for a significantly lower interest cost than the first $30 million. 

That means less impact on the proposed property tax rate, but an impact nonetheless. Of the proposed 1.3 cent tax increase, 0.3 cents goes to paying back the second round of COs. 

The balance of the potential increase – the City Council will make its first vote on the tax rate at its Thursday, Aug. 27 meeting – is earmarked to pay for neighborhood street maintenance. You can read about the street maintenance/tax impact issue in our prior budget blog post. 

Lest you think the entire burden for paying for new roads is being borne by property taxes, remember the City Council approved Roadway Impact Fees in March 2019, which are paid by developers to cover some of the costs of expanding our transportation network necessitated by their projects. 

About the proposed tax rate 

The proposed property tax rate is 43.9 cents, the same as the current tax rate. It’s an increase of 3.2 percent above the “no new revenue” tax rate of 42.5 cents, which takes into account the 2.8 percent growth in existing property values from last year. 

At the proposed rate, the owner of a median valued home would pay $94 per month in City property taxes, or $3 more than last year. The median home value in Round Rock for FY 2021 is $256,347. 

For those of you wondering why the City’s growth won’t pay for the needed transportation projects, here’s your answer: New property valued at $294 million was added to the property tax roll since last year. This amount of new property will generate $1.3 million in additional property tax revenues. 

Sales tax revenue continues to be a critical source for funding City services – as well as $86 million worth of transportation infrastructure in the proposed budget but we’ll talk in more detail about that in next week’s budget blog. Spoiler alert: It’s a big deal. (Can’t wait? Read more about it here.) 

While no one likes paying more in property taxes, it helps to have some perspective. Round Rock’s property tax rate is among the lowest in the Texas, as the chart below shows, and few cities receive the kind of recognition we do for affordability and livability.

Building additional roadway capacity and taking care of what’s already built isn’t easy – or cheap – but Round Rock has found a way to do it that minimizes the impact on the tax rate. 

Budget maintains focus on strategic priorities to keep community on track for long-term progress 

Note: This is the third in a series of posts about the City of Round Rock’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget and tax rate. 

Maintaining a strategic focus yearin and yearout, in good times and bad, is one reason Round Rock is featured on so many “Best Place lists. The proposed budget continues that practice, prioritizing spending on projects that drive long-term progress on keeping Round Rock a great place to live and run a business. 

Even though the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget is $25 million less than the budget approved this time last year, it still funds key programs of the City Council’s strategic priorities. 

Financially Sound City Providing High Value Services 

The Council’s top priority is supported in our General Fund budget, with funding for maintenance and upgrades for facilities, parks and technology. Because of reduced revenues, the “buckets” for these programs are being funded at reduced levels.  

The budget also includes step increases and market adjustments for public safety staff, and cost of living increases and market adjustments, if needed, for general government staff.  


City Infrastructure: Today and for Tomorrow 

Keeping up with water, wastewater, stormwater and transportation improvements is critical to maintaining quality of life in a fast-growing community like Round Rock. 

The 2021 spending plan includes $91.7 million for road and street projects, and $77.2 million for water and wastewater improvements, including a major expansion of a regional wastewater treatment plant. 

The transportation projects slated for funding include: 

The City Council is also considering an additional $1.5 million for neighborhood street maintenance.


Sports Capital of Texas for Tourism and Residents 

Our Go Round Rock tourism program had to hit the pause button due to the significant impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry, but there are bright spots and the future still holds much promise. 

The Round Rock Sports Center continues to be self-supporting through the hotel-motel venue tax. The Round Rock Multipurpose Complex has reopened, under health guidelines from the Governor and CDC, and is beginning to recover revenues lost in the current fiscal year. And City-owned Forest Creek Golf Club is on track to cover expenses again this year, following extensive renovation and a shutdown in 2018. 

The best news for the tourism program came in July, when Kalahari Resorts announced it was on track to open on Nov. 12 its hotel, indoor water park and convention center. 


Great Community to Live 

Two of the final projects from the 2013 bond election are included in this priority: a new library and major sections of the Brushy Creek Regional Trail system.  

There is $8.6 million earmarked for the Heritage Trail and Lake Creek Trail projects, which will connect neighborhoods west of I-35 to downtown. The budget also includes $1 million for the Behren’s Ranch Nature Park. 

While the new library is scheduled to break ground in FY21, it won’t be completed until November 2023.  

The budget plan includes $1.8 million for improvements to the South Mays Street commercial corridor, which will be funded with Type B sales tax revenues. 


Authentic Downtown – Exciting Community Destination 

Significant infrastructure improvements for Northeast Downtown are planned, in part to support the new library mentioned above as well as continued redevelopment in the area. A total of $6.4 million is budgeted for water, wastewater, drainage, transportation and dry utility improvements. 

The budget also includes funds for continuing the Hometown Holiday lights and displays as well as marketing initiatives for Downtown Round Rock. 


Sustainable Neighborhoods – Old and New 

The most significant expenditure for neighborhoods is $1.5 million for street maintenance. The City Council has prioritized funding for maintaining our neighborhood streets to keep them good condition based on the fact that ongoing maintenance is less expensive over time than rebuilding them. Since 2015, the City has allocated $22.3 million for neighborhood street maintenance. 

The budget continues to fund our Neighborhood Services program, which provides services for active and engaged neighborhoods to revitalize themselves using community resources. 

The FY21 budget proposal keeps Round Rock on track to achieving its long-term vision, as well as providing the basic services needed to keep the community so livable for residents and businesses.  

 

 

City Council wrestles with street maintenance funding level for FY21 

Note: This is the second in a series of blog posts about the proposed fiscal 2021 budget and tax rate. 

To fund or not to fund street maintenance, that is the question. 

And it’s a $1.5 million question that has a $2 per month impact for property taxpayers next year, as well as implications for the quality of neighborhood streets in the future 

Since 2012, the City has spent more than $37.1 million to maintain neighborhood streets. The cost is significant, but not nearly as expensive as having to completely rebuild streets that have failed or are in severe disrepair. 

The City Council is wrestling over a decision to nudge up the proposed property tax rate to fund more of the neighborhood street maintenance program in the fiscal 2021 budget, or continue to defer funding along with other spending cuts in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The City Council approved a $4.3 million cut to street maintenance this spring as part of overall budget cuts due to forecast reduced revenues from the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus. 

“I would think deferred maintenance would cost more to catch up than if we did it now,” Councilmember Tammy Young said at Tuesday’s City Council work session. 

Transportation Services Director Gary Hudder agreed, adding,Not only would costs continue to escalate, but also as you kick the can down the road, obviously the problem starts getting bigger again.” 

The City Council voted Thursday, Aug. 13, to set a proposed maximum tax rate of 43.9 cents. At that rate, the City would have $3.0 million for street maintenance. That rate would cost the owner of a median value home an additional $3 per month. The City Council is also considering a 42.9 cents tax rate, which would cost the owner of a median value home an additional $1 per month but include only $1.5 million for neighborhood street maintenance. 

“Even at the 43.9 cent rate we’re still in the bottom quarter of tax rates among Texas cities,Mayor Craig Morgan said. “The additional funds generated by that rate would go to core City services, and I think that’s what people want.” 

The Thursday, Aug. 13, vote isn’t the final say on the tax rate; it just establishes the maximum rate the City Council can approve. The final tax rate vote will occur on Thursday, Aug. 27. The City Council could adopt a lower tax rate. 

At the current proposed tax rate of 43.9 cents, the proposed budget reduces spending by more than $24 million from the original 2020 budget. 

You can watch the City Council’s discussion on the proposed budget and tax rate at the Tuesday, Aug. 11, work session here.

The Time is Now for Round Rock’s long-term plans to deliver results in midst of global pandemic 

Note: This is the first in a series of posts about the proposed 2021 budget and tax rate. 

With so much still unknown about the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy, planning for the fiscal 2021 City budget has been less complicated than usual. There are no new programs included in the budget, and the current proposed spending plan is $26 million less than the original 2020 budget. 

The proposed $418.7 million budget maintains the service levels our citizens have come to expect, and continues to fund our five-year transportation improvement program that will improve traffic flows on key corridors like University Boulevard and Gattis School Road.  

Because of the City’s long-term strategic planning and conservative fiscal policies, Round Rock is well-positioned to endure a slumping economy while continuing to move forward on key infrastructure projects. We are preparing to recover from the pandemic from a position of fiscal strength. 

“Lately, it seems like the only constant is change,” City Manager Laurie Hadley stated in her introduction to the proposed budget. “There is a lot going on in the world, and I am always impressed by our organization’s ability to keep things moving forward no matter the challenges we face.” 

The roadway improvements continue apace because the City Council approved a second round of funding for the Driving Progress program this April. The City took advantage of below market interest rates to keep the 5-year, $240 million program moving forward. The $30 million borrowed will require a slight property tax increase.

The spending plan will continue to drive results on the City Council’s six strategic priorities: 

  • Financially Sound City Providing High Value Services 
  • City Infrastructure: Today and Tomorrow 
  • The Sports Capital of Texas for Tourism and Residents 
  • Great Community to Live 
  • Authentic Downtown – Exciting Community Destination 
  • Sustainable Neighborhoods – Old and New 

In future posts, we’ll dive deeper into how we’re staying on track with those strategic priorities, as well as a breakdown of the proposed tax rate, the importance of sales tax and shopping local to our budget, the funding plan for transportation improvements, and major community improvement projects.  

Mayor Morgan: Planning puts Round Rock in solid financial position

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

Each year, the City of Round Rock puts together an annual budget that allows us to take care of our day-to-day needs — from library staffing to street maintenance — while also focusing on the road ahead with transportation projects, facility improvements and public safety. We develop long-term plans for major infrastructure like roads and water, as well as quality of life amenities like parks and recreation and library services.

This year’s budget discussions will no doubt include these same themes, but our conversation will be underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic. The past few months have felt like years at times, and some of our plans for the future have had unexpected obstacles placed in their path.

That said, let’s be honest — as City leaders, we are always dealing with change. Changing economic landscapes and new legislation are familiar territory for us. A pandemic is an unexpected challenge, to say the least, but we’ve created a solid foundation through many years of long-term planning and visioning.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Round Rock had seen recent business recruiting successes, an uptick in sales tax revenue overall and from Dell as well as healthy fund reserves. Round Rock has historically used sales tax to fund the largest portion of our General Fund, which pays for basic services like public safety and parks. Knowing that sales tax is a volatile funding source, we have for years been working toward a more balanced approach to funding these basic services. Currently, the General Fund is comprised of 43 percent sales tax revenue, 35 percent property tax revenue, 22 percent other taxes and fees. By 2023, we project a balance of sales tax and property tax at 40 percent.

Although our past financial planning puts us in a solid position, we have already sharpened our pencils to brace for the impacts of the past few months on our budget. Sales tax, hotel/motel occupancy tax and other revenues are expected to take a significant hit this year due to the actions taken by local and state officials to limit interaction among people to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our revised total sales tax projected for FY 2020 resulting from revenue losses from COVID-19 is $67.06 million, compared to the original adopted budget of $74.39 million. Our staff proactively worked to cut approximately $8.9 million out of department budgets for the current fiscal year in lieu of across the board reductions, and we made sweeping cuts to travel, training, non-essential overtime and other spending through a budget amendment passed by City Council last month. This gives us a balanced budget through the end of the year that tightens the purse strings while still allowing us to focus on our priorities, without having to dip into our contingency and debt reserves.

We know our local businesses need us more than ever, and it’s important to keep in mind that “Shopping the Rock” helps us fund improvements to our community that make this city such a great place to call home. The sales tax rate in Round Rock is 8.25 percent, with the state of Texas collecting 6.25 percent and the City 2 percent. Of the City’s share, half of those funds go to basic local government services like police, fire protection, parks and the library, one quarter of the funds help reduce property taxes, and the remaining portion funds economic development, primarily construction of major transportation improvements. More than $582 million in transportation projects alone have come to fruition due to this important funding source.

We are still waiting to see exactly how hard our local economy has been hit these last few months, but we maintain a focus on our strategic planning to make decisions that will continue to move us forward in the direction we need to go. The City will continue to focus on community needs and our strategic goals while working within the confines of our current financial conditions. We will do everything we can to ensure that our community continues to be one of the best places to live in the country, and by working together, we will get through this.

UDPATED: What you can do to make Open Texas safe, successful

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday, April 27, released his report to Open Texas, a guide to gradually bring state businesses back to life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, May 6, Gov. Abbott announced his intention to expand openings of certain businesses and activities in upcoming phases of the plan. On May 18, Gov. Abbott announced new phases of business and activity openings. 

PROTOCOL CHECKLISTS: View protocol checklists for restaurants, theaters, churches, nail salons, cosmetology/hair salons, gyms and more.

While most of the early attention has been on what businesses can reopen — and which can’t — there is a lot of emphasis in the report about what we as individuals can do to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

Flattening the curve isn’t about stopping the spread of the virus — that’s pretty much impossible with a virus like this one — it’s about slowing the spread so our healthcare facilities don’t get overwhelmed by those hardest hit by COVID-19. So far, so good on that strategy here in Williamson County. Of the 279 confirmed cases as of April 28, only 35 have ever been hospitalized, according to data from the Williamson County and Cities Health District, the public health authority.

It helps, no doubt, that we are generally healthier than most — Williamson County is ranked No. 6 in health outcomes and No. 4 in health factors in Texas — so residents here are less likely to have comorbidities like diabetes, heart disease and asthma.

So we need to keep ourselves healthy by following the protocols in the Open Texas report. Take a minute to familiarize yourself with the list below. We all need to be familiar with symptoms of COVID-19 so we are less likely catch or spread the virus as we begin to resume life in the new normal.

Health protocols for individuals

  • Maintain at least 6 feet separation from other individuals not within the same household. If such distancing is not feasible, other measures such as face covering, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, cleanliness and sanitation should be rigorously practiced.
  • Self-screen before going into a business for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Chills
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • Loss of taste or smell
    • Diarrhea
    • Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19
  • Wash or disinfect hands upon entering a business and after any interaction with employees, other customers, or items in the business
  • Consider wearing cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth when entering a business, or when within 6 feet of another person who is not a member of your household. If available, individuals should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks. 

Testing, contact tracing

It’s important to remember that as we adhere to these protocols, it is likely case counts will increase as more testing becomes available. Stepping up testing and contact tracing are integral parts of the Open Texas plan. Gov. Abbott said increased positive tests are less of a factor than healthcare system capacity and fatality rates in deciding whether to move on to Phase II of Open Texas, currently scheduled for May 18.

COVID 19 testing tracing graphic

The report emphasizes the need to protect the most vulnerable population to COVID-19: Texans over 65. They make up 76 percent of COVID-19 fatalities in Texas, through April 26. In fact, the first set of protocols listed in the report are to protect this segment of the population.

Special guidance for Texans over 65

  1. Stay Home If You Can
  • Minimize face-to-face contact with others. Avoid young children.
  • If someone is assisting you, you and your family members or caretaker should wear cloth face masks. Remember a family member or caretaker can give you the virus even if they don’t appear to have symptoms.
  • Try grocery or restaurant delivery, mail order prescriptions, and phone appointments with your doctor. Call 2-1-1 if you need help with essentials.
  • Reach out to friends, family, or neighbors who can deliver essential items.
  1. Help Save Lives
  • If you must go out, wear a cloth face mask, and stay six feet away from others.
  • Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Disinfect surfaces, buttons, handles, knobs, and other places touched often
  • Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, or eating utensils with others
  • If you have mild symptoms (difficulty breathing, or a rapidly worsening cough or fever), call your healthcare provider. If symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1.
  1. Check In
  • Check in regularly with neighbors, friends, and family by calling, texting, emailing, video chatting, or even writing letters.
  • Walking, gardening, digital books, games, and online religious services are great ways to stay active and connected.

Protocol checklists

The Open Texas Plan features a series for checklists for individuals and organizations to follow to allow the state to open back up in phases and slow the spread of COVID-19.

New, In Effect May 31, 2020

New, In Effect May 22, 2020

New, Now in Effect as of May 18, 2020

Effective May 18, 2020

Effective May 8, 2020

Effective May 5, 2020

From the Texas Education Agency