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