As Georgetown businesses open, residents are split whether to go out or stay in

The Williamson County 'Stay Home Stay Safe' order expired at 11:59 p.m. April 30, allowing business to open with limited capacity May 1. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
The Williamson County 'Stay Home Stay Safe' order expired at 11:59 p.m. April 30, allowing business to open with limited capacity May 1. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

The Williamson County 'Stay Home Stay Safe' order expired at 11:59 p.m. April 30, allowing business to open with limited capacity May 1. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Georgetown businesses began to open May 1 with limited capacity after more than a month of being shut down to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

And while some residents have their shopping bags ready, others are hesitant to return to old habits.

In an April 30 post on Nextdoor and Facebook, Community Impact Newspaper received more than 100 comments from residents regarding thoughts on the phased reopening. Responses ranged widely, from those eager to enjoy a meal out as soon as the evening of May 1 to those continuing self-isolation practices even as businesses resume.

Fred Stein is the former.

He said in an email to Community Impact Newspaper that he definitely plans to venture out to stores and restaurants, some of which include the Georgetown Country Club and Firo’s Fire Kissed Pizza.

“We must get on with life—be careful but not afraid,” Stein said.Let real data and reason be your guide.”

Williamson County issued a "Stay Safe Stay Home order" on March 24 which expired at 11:59 p.m. April 30. On April 30, Williamson County confirmed 301 cases of the novel coronavirus and its ninth death.

Stein added he believed the city needs to reopen for many reasons, including many people’s need to get back to work and the success of the stay home order, which was put in place so the health care system would not be over loaded—to which he said it is not.

“While we live in a heavily retired community [and] many do not work, they do not feel the pain of not reopening. [It’s] understandable but not in the common good,” he said.

Lilly Johnson similarly said on Nextdoor that she will go out but with much caution, such as wearing her mask and making sure to keep six-feet of distance.

“Can't wait be to sit down in a restaurant and get my meal hot,” Johnson said, adding that she is tired of takeout. She said she will be eating out Friday or Saturday.

Stan Schwartz said on Nextdoor he is proud of the sacrifices many Georgetown residents have made in taking the virus seriously, which he said has helped keep the infection rate, hospitalizations and deaths at a low level.

“I hate the economic consequences. I hate that some of our beloved local businesses are terribly affected. I hate that there are so many of us furloughed, unemployed and without an adequate income to support our families or employees,” Schwartz said.

As of April 27, more than 3,100 residents of Georgetown’s three zip codes—78626, 78628 and 78633—had filed for unemployment benefits, according to Texas Workforce Commission data.

“Let’s not complain or politicize this, let’s support our community in safe, respectful–and for the ones who can–in a charitable way,” Schwartz said.

Oppositely, some Georgetown residents, like Donna Hanna and Anne Wormer, said they were going to continue to self-isolate until they see numbers of confirmed cases drop .

Hanna said she will not be visiting any restaurants, retailers, movies or any other places that are not a grocery store or pharmacy.

“Our numbers are not going down, they are going up,” she said.

Hanna added that she has observed some people not wearing masks and not staying six feet away from each other. While masks have never been mandatory in Williamson County and Gov. Greg Abbott said April 27 counties cannot issue fines or penalties on people not wearing them, Williamson County still encourages residents to wear masks while out to help prevent the spread and plans to keep its offices closed to the public until at least June 1.

Wormer acknowledged the increase in testing that has resulted in the higher case count, but said she believed the additional testing is just going to reveal how many more cases the community probably has.

“I would like nothing more than to be wrong about this, but I think we are in for a surge in cases,” Wormer said. “I believe that the stay-at-home order should remain in effect until mid-June at the earliest.”

Williamson County and Cities Health District opened its first Covid-19 testing site for those who show symptoms on April 30 with plans to open additional sites. Currently, the district is only testing those who take a pre-screening test online and qualify for the test. The test is free.

Wendy Willingham agreed with Hanna, saying on Nextdoor that she and her husband will continue to do curbside pick-up for groceries, get takeout food and stay away from crowds.

“Once the cases start declining, we will regroup and discuss how to proceed then. It's already sometimes difficult to walk in parks. We will definitely not be doing that any more if crowds flood them,” Willingham said.

The same was said by Morris Evans, who has been a resident of Georgetown since the 60s. He said he will not be out but will continue to get take-out food orders, as he said he always has.

Georgetown resident Karen Ortiz said in an email to Community Impact Newspaper that she also will not be one of those who goes out, because as a part-time hospital worker she feels she is already “exposed enough as it is.”

“I want to be responsible and avoid passing anything to others—who foolishly won't be wearing masks anyway,” Ortiz said. “Sorry businesses, but still too soon.”

Dawn Wyatt agreed.

“I don't want to deal with the crowds that are going to show up. And it's not that important to me to shop or dine out at this point,” she said.

Open for business

Here is a noncomprehensive list of Georgetown businesses who plan to open May 1 with limited capacity who also submitted information as of May 1 to the Community Impact Newspaper retail to go database.

The list will be updated periodically. Please email [email protected] with any updates you would like to share.