Not Greg Abbott, or Dan Patrick, or Ken Paxton, that’s for sure.
The Oregon governor is calling it a “freeze.” In New Mexico, it’s a “reset.”
Across the country, state elected officials are frantically rolling back their reopening plans to slow the burgeoning surge in coronavirus infections.
But in Texas, Republican leaders remain unwilling to change course in the face of soaring hospitalizations and an early uptick in deaths from the virus that has public health experts increasingly alarmed.
Gov. Greg Abbott has yet to impose new restrictions or allow county officials to take additional measures. Attorney General Ken Paxton has intervened to strike down locally adopted restrictions. Other requests to further limit gatherings, close nonessential businesses or impose stricter mask requirements have been blocked.
On Friday, a state appeals court halted a temporary shutdown of nonessential businesses in El Paso County, where cases have skyrocketed and mobile morgues have been rushed in to handle all the casualties. Paxton and a group of restaurant owners had sued to block the order, claiming the governor has final say on any new restrictions.
“I will not let rogue political subdivisions try to kill small businesses and holiday gatherings through unlawful executive orders,” Paxton said in a statement celebrating the appeals court ruling. On Twitter, he added: “We must never shut Texas down again!!”
Since September, Abbott has relied on a reopening plan that ratchets up restrictions in regions that have growing numbers of people hospitalized with COVID-19; the threshold is now seven continuous days of coronavirus patients filling at least 15 percent of all available beds in that area.
Few if any other states are using a similar threshold, and public health experts have long cautioned against relying on hospitalizations alone because they provide a delayed glimpse into the state of an outbreak — it takes someone several days to be hospitalized after they contract COVID.
Rebecca Fischer, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Texas A&M, said it’s important to consider multiple factors, including the rate at which people are testing positive for the virus, emergency room visits and infections at nursing and other long-term care facilities. And she said local governments need decision-making power to best respond to their situations, which may differ even within a given region.
“When I see county judges that are trying so hard to work toward the public health of their constituents and then are just cut off and told no, it kills me,” Fischer said. “Everybody in the public health realm is left scratching their head as to why that would be the case.”
Let’s be clear:
1. They don’t care. Abbott doesn’t want to talk about coronavirus. Paxton will sue any local official who tries to take action to save lives. Dan Patrick has never walked back his comments about letting Grandma die so businesses can reopen.
2. They will never give any authority to local officials. If anything, there will be further bills in the upcoming Lege to restrict what local officials can do even more.
3. They will go straight to Defcon 1 the minute the Biden administration attempts to take any action to combat the virus.
How many people get sick and die as a result is not their concern. They could not be more clear about this.