Trump praises Texas governor as states roll back limits
President Donald Trump praised another Republican governor for rolling back state coronavirus restrictions despite failing to meet the administration's recommended benchmarks as he welcomed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to the White House on Thursday.
“Texas is opening up and a lot of places are opening up. And we want to do it, and I'm not sure that we even have a choice," Trump told reporters. "I think we have to do it. You know, this country can't stay closed and locked down for years.”
Abbott’s visit comes as he faces mounting pressure back home to reboot the Texas economy at a faster pace, even as cases in his state are on the upswing. Just hours before appearing with Trump, Abbott removed jail as a punishment for flouting virus safeguards still in place in Texas amid an outcry over a Dallas salon owner who was jailed for keeping her business open in defiance of Abbott’s restrictions.
Texas is among a long list of states that have been gradually allowing business to reopen despite failing to reach the guidelines spelled out by the White House last month. Those guidelines recommend that states wait until they have seen a two-week decline in documented cases before beginning phased reopenings.
Texas has had more than 34,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 940 deaths. And cases have been creeping up. The state has averaged 1,043 new cases a day in the seven days since stay-at-home orders expired May 1, up from an average of 846 new cases daily during the seven days prior. That's a 23% increase.
But Abbott on Thursday insisted the state was containing the spread and had created “surge forces” to deal with virus flare-ups, with a focus on jails, meatpacking plants and senior homes, where the virus has proven particularly deadly.
“It’s like putting out a fire,” he said, echoing language used by Trump.
Trump has taken a hands-off approach to the reopening process, insisting that decisions be left to the states.
“The governors have great power as to that given by us,” he said. The president has not spelled out what authority he is referring to.
During a visit to deliver protective gear to a nursing home in Alexandria, Virginia, Vice President Mike Pence brushed off states' disregard for the federal guidance, saying he was “very confident that governors are moving in a responsible way.”
“It appears to me that states are taking a phased approach," he told reporters. "They’re following the data, they’re following the science and they are implementing the kind of testing and resource assessment that is contemplated in the president’s guidelines to open up America again.”
(Weber reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Alexandria, Virginia, contributed to this report)
WACO, Texas (KWTX)—As hair, nail and cosmetology salons prepare to reopen Friday here and around the state, there are questions about whether Texas is moving too fast as it rolls back restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19.
"I have said from the beginning is that we don’t want to do this twice," said economist Ray Perryman, CEO of the Perryman Group in Waco.
Perryman was one of the members of the task force that prepared the “Texans Back to Work” report detailing best practices for reopening the state’s economy.
"This was made up by a very large group of people and I think there is a lot of good info in the report," but he says it will all be for not if we aren't careful. "It is so very important we focus on the health side of things going forward," says Perryman.
He encourages people to wear masks, keep distance, and be smart about what they do. And he says it may take some time for the economy to bounce back from the impact of the closings.
"We have never seen this much of a loss this fast," he says. "It will probably take until 2022 to get back to 2019 levels," he said.
"Make no mistake, even if we get back that much activity in just 20 months that’s a lot of growth," he says. (Drake Lawson)