New UT research on decisions behind reopening Texas businesses finds some concerns

New research from the University of Texas at Austin looked at the decisions behind reopening Texas businesses and found some concerns.

Researchers say that even when businesses are reopening in phases, data-driven decisions should be considered, especially when it comes to the impact of what that business has on a state like Texas as well as the likelihood it could be a place of transmission.


“Unfortunately what we're seeing not just in Texas but throughout the country, many policymakers are making these decisions to reopen in phases and we're not sure how they're coming up with these decisions,” said Avinash Collis, an assistant professor with the University of Texas McCombs School of Business.

Collis partnered with MIT to do a risk assessment of how safe some businesses are to open.

Businesses being open is essential to economic health, but opening too soon in a pandemic can lead to a setback. For example, that's what happened when bars and restaurants re-opened. Too many people not following proper guidelines forced bars to shut their doors a second time.

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“And probably now is still not the right time to open many of these places because the pandemic is still spreading,” Collis said.

Research found the top stores to be open are those "essential" stores: grocery stores, Walmart, Target, banks, and universities, saying locations like these are beneficial to both consumers and the economy. 

“On the other hand we find liquor stores, gyms, sporting goods stores, amusement parks and cafes should be reopened last or shutdown first,” Collis said.


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Collis says they are also surveying people on if safety measures like masks, partitions, and social distancing raise confidence about going to certain places.

"Some people are more likely to go to these places with these precautions, but some are less likely to go to these places because they don’t like you know - the value of their visitation is not the same with the precautions in place," he said.

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Researchers said they hope Texas as well as other states will use their findings going forward as a framework to decide how best and safely to reopen additional businesses.