EDITORIAL: Opening up

As some restrictions eased, using caution best strategy

Day One of Texas’ reopening appears to have gone relatively smoothly, and officials across the state appear to be showing the right amount of caution with regard to allowing people to start interacting in public once again. Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday announced the first steps toward bringing normalcy back to our states’ economy, allowing retail stores to take orders for curbside pickup on Friday, comparable to what many restaurants have been doing during the travel restrictions in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a big deal, one that will send ripples worldwide. Texas’ $2 trillion economy is the 10th-largest in the world — larger than most countries including Canada and South Korea. Our state exported more than $330 billion worth of goods around the world last year — that’s 20% of all U.S. exports and nearly $100 billion more than New York and California combined. Reopening our supplies and markets could jumpstart the economies in several countries and many segments of the global economy. Premature activity, however, could cause the transmission of the coronavirus, which has shown signs of abating in some areas, to rise again, and negate any improvement that as been seen in recent weeks.

Abbott also announced that state parks could reopen, so that Texans who have been itching to get out the house might be able to spend some time outdoors. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department started taking online reservations for day passes and camping spots shortly after his announcement.

He rightly cautioned, however, that we’re not out of danger yet, and the easing of restrictions will be made gradually, in steps.

And despite his announcement, some local officials say they aren’t yet ready to give the green light. Some state parks say the weekend wasn’t enough time to prepare for visitors and remained closed Monday. In addition, some officials including El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said the coronavirus isn’t sufficiently under control in their areas to justify an easing of restrictions.

Local officials, who have the best information on conditions under their jurisdictions, should be able to make such decisions, and it’s good to see that at least some of them see Abbott’s announcement as an allowance rather than a mandate. Antigovernment groups have started organizing protests, demanding that restrictions be eased, but officials need to exercise caution in making decisions that can affect overall public health.

The ultimate responsibility, of course, rests with each individual, and everyone is encouraged to consider their own welfare and that of their families. The virus is still out there; new cases are reported every day and some health officials say they still don’t have enough testing kits to test all the people they’d like. Thus, it’s best to maintain the habits we’ve developed since the viral outbreak began: Don’t leave home unless it’s necessary, cover your face in public places, and wash hands or use sanitizing solutions as frequently as possible.

We welcome any indication that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. We how have to take the utmost caution that our zeal to return to our normal lives doesn’t reverse the progress we’ve made, and force officials to reimpose whatever restrictions have been lifted.