Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state will begin to reopen Friday from the coronavirus pandemic, but a Texas judge told CNN he hopes residents will not take him up on it.
“Just because something can be open doesn’t mean it should be open,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “Burnett Outfront.” “And just because something is open doesn’t mean you should go there.”
Abbott issued an executive order Monday allowing businesses like retail stores, malls, restaurants and theaters to reopen Friday with occupancy limited to 25%. The order supersedes local orders.
“Now it’s time to set a new course, a course that responsibly opens up business in Texas,” Abbott said. “We will open in a way that uses safe standards – safe standards for businesses, for their employees as well as for their customers. Standards based upon data and on doctors.”
But Jenkins said the best way to open the state’s economy is to keep residents safe – and that the order goes against safest practices advised by scientist and experts.
“What we know is that when you look at other science-based plans, movie theaters are not one of the first things that open,” Jenkins said. “And so, I think it’s going to be incumbent on the residents here to use good, smart decision-making.”
Though Jenkins and local politicians cannot override Abbott’s order, he said he will look for ways to institute rules to keep residents and employees safe within the reopening.
‘Being successful means saving lives’
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson told CNN’s Don Lemon on “CNN Tonight” that he will continue to encourage his residents to socially distance and practice good hygiene.
“The reality is we are where we are now. The governor has made that decision,” Johnson said, adding that he now has turned his thinking toward how to make the new plan successful. That thinking includes keeping vulnerable populations at home, encouraging residents to wear masks and increasing testing and contact tracing.
“Being successful means saving lives,” he said.
Friday is the first phase of the state’s reopening and limits occupancy of open businesses to 25%. If the state can contain the spread, phase two – which would increase occupancy to 50% and expand outdoor sporting events to more than four participants at a time – could come as early as May 18, Abbott said.
Jenkins countered that the occupancy limitations are up to individual businesses to implement.
Abbot noted that he wants barbershops, salons, gyms and bars open “as soon as possible” and expects them to open no later than mid-May.
The governor said that he sent his reopening plan to Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the US, and that she told him “the Texas plan was great.”
In the absence of strict social distancing measures, experts widely agree that states and localities will need to build the capacity for additional testing and contact tracing.
Abbott said that the state “should easily exceed our goal of 25,000 tests per day” by early May, but Texas medical and public health officials told CNN the state is not building the capacity at a large enough scale to reopen.
In the meantime, Jenkins said he hopes residents make decisions that align with what experts are saying.
“The political decisions may change, but what you need to do is focus on the science,” he said.