A little more than two weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide stay-at-home order, Tea Party-aligned state lawmakers are ready to reopen Texas.
In a letter to the governor, members of the dwindling-in-number Texas Freedom Caucus said the “risk” of maintaining Abbott’s executive order outweighed the dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They cited a reported increase in suicide and domestic abuse across the country as reasons to loosen the statewide order.
“We believe that a decline in public health due to a lack of ordinary healthcare, and the risk of Great Depression-like financial destruction require us to change our current response to the Wuhan virus,” read the letter, asking Abbott to allow local governments the flexibility to respond the virus.
“It is ultimately the individual Texan’s responsibility to keep themselves safe, and also to ensure the safety of those who cannot protect themselves,” Tea Party lawmakers concluded.
Andrew Reagan, the director of the Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee, said the letter was an attempt by Republicans to divide Texans with “xenophobic language and dangerous proposals that put profits over people.”
Abbott is already planning on informing Texans of a timeline for when and how businesses in the state will re-open. Those details will be announced Friday.
“We want to open. Texans love to work. Texans are dying to get back to work,” Abbott said in a recent Fox News interview. “We want them to get back to work, but we have to do so in a very safe way so that we don’t regenerate the spread of the coronavirus in the state of Texas.”
News of Texas’ planned partial reopening comes as President Trump pressures governors to end state-enforced social distancing measures. Trump began the week bragging about his “total” authority to override states seeking to extend stay-at-home orders. His remarks were later rebuked by members of both parties and the president now says he will “authorize” states to decide when to open on their own.
In Texas, the coronavirus curve is still roughly two weeks from its peak, according to one frequently updated projection by health researchers at the University of Washington. Assuming government-mandated social distancing is kept, the model estimates the number of deaths per day in Texas will peak May 1 and rapidly decline throughout the rest of the month. Because its projection is based on observable deaths, researchers say their estimates are not influenced by state differences in testing, such as Texas, currently ranked 49th for COVID-19 testing.
Texas is currently reporting 15,492 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 364 fatalities from the virus.
Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at email@example.com