Collin County leaders discussed essential businesses, worker resources and hospital needs as part of a March 24 telephone town hall by Congressman Van Taylor.

Taylor was joined by Collin County Judge Chris Hill, state representatives Jeff Leach and Matt Shaheen, and county public health officials to take resident questions about coronavirus.

This comes on the same day that Collin County issued a stay-at-home order, which encourages businesses to remain open if they can follow federal health guidelines for social distancing and prevent gatherings of less than 10 people.

“We want to make it absolutely clear that across all levels of government, our primary objective is to protect the physical health and well-being of our Collin County citizens,” Hill said during the town hall.

Essential businesses

Collin County’s stay-at-home order is different from those in nearby Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties since it does not deem certain businesses as essential or nonessential.

“We’ve taken a different approach here in Collin County because we recognize that every job is essential to somebody,” Hill said. “If you can perform your job or if you can conduct your business in a way that protects the public health and prevents the spread of COVID-19, then we would like you to stay open.”

Hill said he believes businesses who are deemed essential by other counties may continue operations without following proper health guidelines.

“It might be even more dangerous if a business looks at the list and says ‘oh, I’m on the list, I can stay open,’ especially if that particular business is not able to practice social distancing in their business format,” Hill said.

Hill said he and fellow Dallas, Denton and Tarrant county judges are trying to keep residents healthy, but Collin County is addressing its stay-at-home order differently.

“If you can follow the guidelines and still work, then you can stay open,” he said. “If you can’t follow the guidelines, you can’t stay open—regardless of what list you’re on.”

What is being done for workers

A resident phoned in asking about what is being done to help workers through this crisis. Taylor said legislation is currently in the works to benefit workers. He hinted specifically at legislation that would make collecting unemployment easier.

“It hasn’t passed yet, hasn’t been signed,” Taylor said.

State representative Shaheen said those with questions about collecting unemployment should visit the Texas Workforce Commission’s website or send an email to his office at [email protected].

Overcoming this crisis as quickly as possible is the best way to help workers who are struggling, state representative Leach said.

“The best thing that all of us can do no—matter where you live, what job you have, where your kids go to school—for workers in this county, for our economy, is to get this crisis behind us,” he said. “The way that we’re going to do that is to follow the guidelines from our health experts every day.”

Protective supplies and hospital materials

Shaheen said a task force organized by Gov. Greg Abbott is working to increase the number of respirators and masks in Texas.

“We’re at a point now that the state of Texas is actually receiving over 100,000 masks a day,” Shaheen said. “And our expectation is that that number is going to continue to grow by next week, and we’ll start receiving about a million per week.”

However, hospital resources needed to address coronavirus are critically low in Texas, said Taylor Burton, Collin County public health emergency preparedness coordinator.

Texas hospitals are receiving guidance on how to make materials last as long as possible, Burton said. Hospitals can contact their city’s emergency management agency once they are critically low on materials to receive more from the state.

“We absolutely hope we get those respirators and other things,” she said. “They’re filling those [needs] as quickly as they can."