San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter Hopes Coronavirus Pandemic is Short-Lived

SAN ANGELO, TX — Mayor Brenda Gunter believes the Coronavirus worry will begin abating in three to six weeks. Based on what she learned in meetings with public health officials at the state and local levels, she said the current strategy for combatting the virus is to be very responsive on the frontend by reducing those infected now, in hope that the number of new cases will subside as the number of recoveries exceeds the infection rate. She winces at the pain the disruption to the economy is causing, but said it will all be worth it in shortening the lifespan of the pandemic.

Mayor Gunter clarified the 50-person rule for restaurants. She said the City will not order restaurants and bars closed unless ordered to do so by a higher authority. She didn’t anticipate that happening. Governor Greg Abbott has so far allowed the local authorities to make public health decisions, she said.

Yesterday, Mayor Gunter issued a Declaration of Public Health that prohibited gatherings indoors or outdoors of greater than 50 people. She said that she is counting on self-policing and for citizens to self-prevent walking into establishments that look like more than 50 people are already there. She is not ready to have the police department enforce the declaration.

Make sure “you have the appropriate amount of room between patrons,” Gunter said. As an example, she said at her restaurant, she is seating patrons at every other table. On the other hand, “If someone is in a business, and they are not comfortable about the number of people in there, they can call Code Enforcement.”

The City of San Angelo relies on sales tax receipts, in part, to pay for public safety.

“I hope that [this is over in three weeks]. Our declaration is a seven-day declaration,” Gunter said. The entire city council will decide on whether or not to extend the declaration on Monday, March 23.

“What I hope is over these next seven days, the number of ‘test positives’ for Coronaviruses starts to come down, but it won’t do that unless we self-contain,” she said. “I’m thinking [this goes on with the emergency declaration] for three weeks at a maximum.”

The City of San Angelo can be impacted by the loss of sales tax revenue while businesses are shut down. Until the pandemic hit, the San Angelo economy had been growing at a very good clip. Sales tax revenues were increasing each month, year over year, at 5-10 percent. Gunter noted that while the loss of revenue from the hospitality portion of the economy will impact the March sales tax receipts, she said that toilet paper is not tax-exempt. The amount of goods being sold in the big box stores may help keep the sales tax revenue growth flat to slightly growing this month.

The City budgeted sales tax revenue conservatively this year and so far fiscal year 2020, every month’s sales tax revenue receipts have exceeded budget. She said if the pandemic response is short-lived, the City budget will be in good shape.

Watch the video for more insight on how the Coronavirus response is impacting local businesses.

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