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Gov. Greg Abbott punts public health decisions to Texas restaurant owners

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By Jim Ward

My name is Jim Ward. I own a restaurant and I am angry.

We know this virus is incredibly contagious and that limiting exposure is the best chance we have to keep our hospitals and frontline workers from being overwhelmed until a vaccine is available. We also know that our economy is getting hammered by isolation orders.

We elect officials and fund the government in order for them to make educated decisions that benefit society as a whole. These are hard decisions that will affect everyone in one way or another and I can’t imagine the burden.

Except I can imagine the burden, because I as a small business owner am now expected to make these decisions.  I will not open my dining room or patio. I will not put my employees’ health at risk.  I will not put my customers at risk.  The idea that we will open up 25 percent capacity for a couple of weeks and see how it goes is not just absurd but dangerous.

Jim Ward is an El Paso restaurant owner and musician. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre

We have seen the Easter spike, we expect a Mother’s Day spike and now we are supposed to “wait and see” if there’s an “opening up” spike?

It seems difficult and costly to police even 25 percent capacity in a public setting, especially with contradicting local and state policies, different ideologies on social distancing and factoring the possibility of cross contamination.

Public and private gatherings are prohibited but you can go to a mall?

Facemasks are required but you can eat in public?

You must stay six feet away from others but you can refill their tea?

How do sanitize a restaurant bathroom completely every single time a person uses it?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott putting the burden on us is unacceptable. We are hurting financially and emotionally, yes – but at what cost is commerce worth lives?

We miss our customers, friends and family. But we need more testing and tracing in order to begin crawling out of this.

I hope we weather this storm. I hope people continue to order takeout and delivery from locally owned spots. Most of all I hope that no one else dies from this virus.

Jim Ward owns Eloise restaurant in West El Paso.

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