Cities pave the way for non-essential retailers to reopen

Texas is ready to get back to business and Hidalgo County cities are following suit.

Following guidance from Governor Greg Abbott, non-essential businesses will begin opening across the state Friday on a curbside basis with social distancing and hygiene measures in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Several Hidalgo County cities have issued guidelines about how businesses should reopen and what standards they’ll be required to meet to operate. Although the specifics vary from city to city, many of the guidelines are consistent with anti-coronavirus precautions currently being taken at essential businesses that never ceased operating.

The city of McAllen issued guidance earlier this week on what businesses could reopen and how they should go about doing so.

Businesses allowed to reopen there will include retailers that sell things like clothes, tobacco, perfume and hobby-items, the city wrote in a release. Businesses that reopen will be required to post and adhere to a set of guidelines issued by the city.

“A lot of downtown stores, perfume stores and stuff. You go downtown and it’s really been sad,” Mayor Jim Darling said. “It’s kind of like a light at the end of the tunnel thing, I think it’s very important for them to be able to get back.”

Darling said the city will be checking to ensure businesses comply with the new guidelines and monitoring how well retailers adapt to curbside and takeout models.

“We’ll see how many people are willing to go downtown and to stores and shop when they can’t go in, we’ll see how well that works. I think there’s some demand for cosmetics and other things, there’s a demand that’s going to be seen down there,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll be successful.”

According to Darling, the next step in the process to economic recovery will likely involve businesses where close physical contact is inevitable, places like gyms, salons and barbershops. How and when those businesses are allowed to open up is less clear, he said.

“They say flatten the curve, but they don’t say what the parameters are for that from the standpoint of reopening things,” Darling said. “I think we’re going to kind of look business by business and make recommendations that way.”

Other Rio Grande Valley cities are preparing to give local business a little more leeway as well, including Pharr, which issued a statement Thursday saying it is exploring plans to re-open the local economy while implementing physical distancing, work-safe measures and sanitary requirements.

“We will be working with our business community because we want to know how you plan to safely open up your business, following the COVID-19 and CDC guidelines,” Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez wrote in the statement. “Together, we will also determine consequences for those businesses that are not in compliance with the safety guidelines, which will be enforced by the city.”

The release did not give a specific timeline for those measures.

“We’re being proactive, we’re going to do what’s right, and we are going to move forward in a smart and responsible manner,” Hernandez wrote.

The city of Mission will require non-essential retailers that wish to open up again to submit a worksafe plan and issued hygiene and social distancing guidelines for businesses following retail to-go, retail delivery to customer’s doorstep and retail delivery by mail models.

Businesses opening on a to-go model will be required to screen employees for health issues, a release from the city said.

“All employees must be screened before coming into the business for new or worsening cough; shortness of breath; sore throat; loss of taste or smell; feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit; or known close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19,” the statement said. “Any employee who meets any of these criteria should be sent home.”

The city of Edinburg, which required work safe plans for businesses early in the pandemic, will require non-essential businesses allowed to open Friday to complete those forms as well.

The plans are due on May 1, according to a release from the city.