By Bethany Blankley
Since May, scores of Republican lawmakers and leaders have offered suggestions to fellow Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to fully reopen the state. They have written numerous letters and made many phone calls expressing how extended executive orders requiring some businesses to remain closed are significantly hurting their constituents.
More than 65 Republican legislators sent a letter to Abbott, which still remains unanswered, asking him to simply amend an order to allow some businesses to operate. The majority say they have not received even a response.
Since March, more than 8,900 businesses have permanently closed in Texas according to a recent Yelp analysis, with another 5,300 reporting temporary closures as a direst result of the state’s shutdown orders issued by the governor. The numbers are most likely higher due to several factors, Yelp notes.
Business owners and state leaders argue most of the jobs made possible by these closed businesses are not coming back, contrary to claims Abbott made earlier this year.
More parents are withdrawing their children from public schools because of over-aggressive social distancing policies and prolonged virtual learning schemes, which they argue isn’t teaching.
In late July, state Sens. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, and Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, pointed to TMC COVID-19 data, which at the time showed that Harris County was past the July 5 peak as new hospitalizations had flat-lined.
“This great news shows we can continue to keep the Texas economy open and fight the virus at the same time,” they said in a news release. But the limited shutdown remained in place.
In July, several county Republican parties voted to censure the governor over his orders.
The initial shutdown was first explained as a way to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus and keep positive test rates below 10 percent, according to remarks the governor repeatedly made at press briefings. But after six months of a shutdown with no end in sight, and an unending statewide mask mandate with no other alternative until the governor changes his mind, Republican leaders argue, “enough is enough.”
Even if the mask mandate were to stay in place, critics argue, if wearing masks is effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus or any other disease, then why has the governor not fully reopened the state?
“What started as 15 days to flatten the curve has turned into six months of misery to the small-business owners of House District 15,” State Rep. Steve Toth, R–The Woodlands, said in an open letter to Abbott this week.
Toth, who is a plaintiff in lawsuits against the governor, withdrew his support of Abbott, who had endorsed him last year.
In his letter, Toth wrote, “By your demonstrated lack of leadership, you have betrayed the trust of conservative Texans across your state. As a former ardent supporter, I must condemn your management of the State’s response and formally announce that I am withdrawing my personal support of your actions.”
The Republican Party of Texas’ executive committee also passed an “Open Texas Now” resolution, authored by Rolando Garcia, a newly elected committeeman for Senate District 15 in Harris County
Garcia published the resolution in a Facebook post, which demands that Abbott “immediately rescind all COVID-related mandates, closures, and restrictions” and fully reopen the state.
“It is so blindingly obvious to everyone that the lockdowns and restrictions were a mistake and devastated the lives of so many people,” Garcia told Texas Scorecard in an interview.
“I really hoped that last week’s announcement would finally put an end to this madness,” Garcia added. “Instead, we just got more games about 50 or 75 percent capacity … for some businesses … in some regions. It’s such a farce at this point and totally disconnected from scientific or public health considerations. It was clear that the state party had to take a stand, so I authored and submitted that resolution.”
The resolution states, “Texans have been under emergency closures, lockdowns, mandates, and restrictions for SIX MONTHS;” and “state and local governments have exercised egregious overreach in misguided attempts to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 disease.”
This overreach has “infringed on our Constitutional liberties …” and has “resulted in unthinkable depredations upon the people of Texas, including left millions unemployed, countless businesses bankrupt or on the verge of bankruptcy, nursing home residents dying alone and isolated, lives ruined and dreams destroyed.”
Republicans leaders argue that fully reopening Texas is possible because “businesses and customers are fully capable of operating freely while undertaking reasonable precautions without top-down, government mandates.”
Daniel McAdams with the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity said the resolution was “a rare – perhaps even unprecedented – move,” noting that Abbott “is facing an increasing rebellion in his own party, especially as the coronavirus numbers in Texas continue to plummet.”
As of Sept. 22, according to the state COVID dashboard, there have been 5,740,674 tests conducted in Texas. Of them, 719,599 have tested positive for the coronavirus; of these, 618,054 are reported recoveries.
Of the 5.7 million who have been tested, roughly 86,416 are reportedly active coronavirus cases; 15,264 are reported deaths.
The dashboard does not report death data according to CDC methodology. The CDC publishes the number of deaths reported by states, which lists death caused “from” the coronavirus, and deaths “with” the virus, meaning deaths could have been caused by comorbidity factors while the individual had also tested positive from the virus.