CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Many city and county offices are running with skeleton crews as non-essential workers are kept home during the COVID-19 crisis, but officials are looking ahead to when they can fully open.
While city, county, and state stay-at-home orders are in effect through April 30th, many are starting to wonder how and when local governments should fully reopen.
Inside Corpus Christi City Hall and the Nueces County Courthouse, offices usually teeming with activity are quiet. Both the city and county have non-essential staff working from home. It’s the new normal until we can transition back to normal.
“We’re beginning to look at what that transition plan looks like,” said City Manager Peter Zanoni. “We’re going to listen this week, because we know they governor is going to issue some statements about what might happen next.”
There’s speculation Governor Greg Abbott may soon re-open restaurants. Precinct 1 County Commissioner Carolyn Vaughn calls that a step in the right direction.
“We’ve got to get our communities back to normal, we’ve got to,” said Vaughn.
Vaughn would like both local government and local businesses to open as soon as possible. She says that commissioners haven’t been filled in on any plans to restart local government.
“We have not been in any discussions for that at all,” said Vaughn. “We need to be, and we need to be in discussions for the businesses to open as well.”
Zanoni says on a normal day, City Hall has about 600 employees. Today, 10 percent or less actually come to City Hall. Most city and county bills can be paid online, but if stay at home orders aren’t extended, these empty counters will be packed.
“We’ll begin to put together a plan as those days get closer to the 30th of April, but we also have to be mindful of the governor’s orders and the judge’s orders,” said Zanoni.
Zanoni believes any reopening plan needs to be gradual to prevent a second wave of COVID-19 cases from washing over the Coastal Bend.
“We can’t let our guard down, even tough our cases are pretty manageable in terms of numbers compared to New York, 83 is still a lot of persons who have this infection,” said Zanoni.
Both city and county leaders say they’ll continue to follow the state’s guidelines when it comes to easing restrictions, adding they still need to remain cautious.