Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to sign an executive order this week to reopen parts of the state’s coronavirus-ravaged economy, but President Donald Trump says the decision is his to make.
Before Abbott made his announcement Monday, Trump said on Twitter that the authority to “open up the states” rests with him and the federal government, not with the governors.
Trump added, however, that “the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue.”
“A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!” he said.
At a news conference where he announced $50 million in loans to small businesses suffering under the pandemic, Abbott didn’t directly address the president’s tweets.
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But Abbott insisted that he spoke with both Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, about the need to “safely reopen the state for doing business.”
“This is not going to be a rush-the-gates, everybody-is-able-to-suddenly-reopen-all-at-once” situation, Abbott said. “Our ability to open businesses in Texas will be tied to our ability to contain the spread of the coronavirus. … We want to expand those that are able to open.”
The Constitution provides the states — not the federal government — with the “police power” to require businesses to close during public health crises. The president doesn’t have the authority to direct governors, mayors or other local officials to lift their emergency orders.
Asked how much guidance he’s getting from Washington, Abbott said this is “something where the White House and White House team has been communicating with governors for weeks now.”
The goal, Abbott said, is to “slowly, strategically, smartly and safely” reopen private businesses.
“Both the president and vice president were talking strategies,” he said.
But it’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy, Abbott said. “What may work in Nebraska may work different for New York, et cetera,” he said.
So far, 286 deaths have been reported in Texas, and 1,176 people remain hospitalized, Abbott said Monday. Of the 133,000 people who have been tested, 13,827 have tested positive.
Abbott said the numbers offer “glimmers of hope with a bunch of red flags attached.”
“The number of deaths reported yesterday was a three-day low,” Abbott added. “Those are exactly the numbers we need to see to show that we are bending the curve in the state of Texas.”
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The governor spoke out a day after he extended the state’s disaster declaration, which went into effect March 13 and allows Texas to do things like tap the Strategic National Stockpile for medical supplies and go after price-gougers for 30 more days.
But Abbott hasn’t extended his stay-at-home order, which expires April 30.
Abbott has faced criticism for being slow to respond to the coronavirus crisis, although it was Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s suggestion that senior citizens would be willing to die for the U.S. to “get back to work” that made headlines.