UVALDE, Texas – In addition to restaurants, theaters, and retail stores, the Uvalde County judge and the mayor have said gyms and salons may reopen on Friday, despite an order from Governor Greg Abbott for those businesses to remain closed.
As part of his plan to reopen Texas, Abbott announced Monday that some previously restricted businesses would be allowed to begin operating at a reduced capacity. A “Guidelines to Local Emergency Declaration” announcement posted to the City of Uvalde’s Facebook page, bearing the names of County Judge William Mitchell and Mayor Don McLaughlin, states the city and county are adding gyms and salons to the list of businesses.
Posted by City of Uvalde on Friday, May 1, 2020
The pair argue the language in Abbott’s executive order that mentions gyms and salons only states that “People shall avoid visiting” them and several other types of businesses, but does not say the businesses can’t open.
“This indirect language does not sound like a clear prohibition to us, and so we will leave it to the public and the business operators to decide what they should do, as long as the rules on congregating around entrances, social distancing, and the guidelines on hygienic practices and masking are strictly followed,” the guidelines read.
However, the Texas Attorney General’s Office has said that is not the case.
In an Apr. 30 letter to the Brazoria County Judge, a deputy attorney general wrote any local order that allows for businesses like gyms and salons to reopen would conflict with the Abbott’s order and would be invalid.
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Speaking to KSAT Friday, Mayor McLaughlin acknowledged the letter from the AG’s office and said it would be up to the local businesses to decide if they wanted to risk opening.
“If they want to open, that’s their call. I mean, but they’ll have to deal with the ramifications of the governor. In my opinion, I still think they should be able to open. But, you know, he’s got the control of the licenses and so forth,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said he did not know of any gyms or salons that had opened up, saying “most of them don’t want to take a chance losing their license.”
Driving around the city of Uvalde on Friday, KSAT did not observe any open gyms or salons, though there was an open tattoo parlor - a type of business listed in the same section of the governor’s order.
Uvalde is allowing newly reopened businesses to operate at 50% capacity, instead of 25%, something the state is allowing counties with fewer than five active COVID-19 cases to do.
Uvalde has had six cases of COVID-19 in total, but none of them are active. Though Mitchell said he had submitted the paperwork on Thursday attesting Uvalde County met the standards to operate at a higher capacity, it was not included on a list of counties allowed to do so as of Friday evening.