As the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic became evident last summer, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry took action to help support the local business community. On July 7th, 2020, Judge Henry formed the Galveston County COVID-19 Business Task Force (GCCBTF) in response to a growing need in the county for business resources and guidance in light of the continuing health emergency.
The task force is a joint effort of Galveston County, the Galveston County Health District, and the eight local chambers of commerce: Bolivar Peninsula, Dickinson, Friendswood, Galveston, Hitchcock, League City, Santa Fe, and Texas City-La Marque. To lead this group, Judge Mark Henry appointed League City Councilman Hank Dugie to lead the task force.
GCCBTF’s purpose is to develop and promote resources to help the business community remain open as the number of COVID-19 cases increased. These resources consisted of items like guidelines and mitigating steps businesses could take to help slow the virus’s spread. The task force would also provide businesses with insight to know what to do when staff or customers tested positive.
Through its partnership, the county has relied heavily on its local chambers, which have stood as stalwart servants to their business community to ensure their resiliency. Judge Henry commented as much, stating that:
“The partnership between the county and local chambers of commerce will create a powerful messaging and resource tool to help businesses navigate the challenges of COVID-19. Galveston County is very fortunate to be home to having some of the strongest and most active chambers in the State of Texas.”
The underlying goal of the task force is to become a single destination for information and guidance that businesses could access at any time. To achieve this milestone, the task force developed its website (gccbtf.org). The website provides a vast array of Q&A-styled questions to answer all queries a business might have in regards to COVID-19. It also acts as a distribution for updates on new regulations as the state provides, and offers PSAs on best practices.
With success witnessed through the task force’s implementation, the original responsibilities grew to incorporate the business community’s needs. As many cities were operating independent “Shop Local” campaigns, the GCCBTF developed an umbrella concept designated “Shop Galveston County.” This marketing campaign combined each local program and amplified the local drives to differentiate Galveston County from the Greater Houston region.
To assist businesses in following best practices, the task force instituted common best practice standards using CDC guidance to provide a rule of thumb for the community and local business. GCCBTF implemented this by creating a task force pledge. The pledge ensured customers that those businesses were following GCCBTF standards to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Local companies from around the county took the oath and proudly hung signage declaring themselves responsible stewards of Galveston County.
As mass testing became more readily available, the task force began assisting businesses with resources to contact and schedule COVID-19 testing for employees and staff through a partnership with UTMB. This assistance provided peace of mind, allowing business owners to keep doors open and employees on their payroll.
On January 8th, 2021, the Galveston County COVID-19 Business Task Force website launched a mask distribution campaign targeted at distributing masks to local businesses. In partnership with the chambers and the county’s economic development department, the task force provided companies with one month’s supply of face masks to help reduce overhead costs. Within two weeks, over 100,000 masks had been picked up or delivered directly to over 270 businesses throughout the county.
GCCBTF is currently assisting the county, the Galveston County Health District, and UTMB’s efforts to provide mass vaccine roll-out.
If you would like to add yourself to the waitlist, visit utmbhealth.com/vaccine. Signing up on the waitlist does not mean you are scheduled for a vaccine appointment, it means that you will be contacted when it is your turn, based on age and medical conditions. According to guidance from the Texas Department of State Health Services, only individuals under Phase 1A, health care workers, and Phase 1B, those 65 and older or 16 and older with certain medical conditions, are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Thanks to the management of the task force by Judge Henry, the Galveston County Health District, our local chambers, and GCCBTF chair Hank Dugie, Galveston County has remained a strong business climate both which provides for its current businesses and those that chose to locate here in the future.
If you’d like more information on the Galveston County COVID-19 Business Task Force, visit their website at gccbtf.org or contact Galveston County’s Economic Development Director, Dane Carlson, at 409-766-2541.