June 26, 2020
Lone Lockdown Celebrity Rebel Vows to Lead
Revolt for Barkeeps Who Don't Get Same Pass
"Texas bars will NOT GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT! I hope you're ready, Governor Abbott." Shelley Luther, Facebook, June 26, 2020
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
Governor Greg Abbott might owe Texas bar owners an explanation on why they're not getting the same special treatment that a Dallas beautician received last month after blatantly violating an executive order that had shuttered hair and nail salons and other nonessential businesses in April.
The Republican governor closed drinking establishments across the state on Friday in response to a new and more virulent COVID-19 wave that had hospitals packed and scrambling in the midst of a flood of patients who've been infected seriously enough to require emergency medical treatment.
Abbott also moved restaurants back into Phase 2 of the Texas reopening with operating capacities reduced from 75 percent to 50 percent while shuttering river tubing and rafting operations. The governor also gave local governments added authority in the regulation of outdoor gatherings.
Texas set a record for coronavirus hospitalizations on Friday for the 14th consecutive day when the state recorded its second highest infection count since the original outbreak in March with 5,707 new confirmed cases.
But Texas avoided another record daily infection count thanks in significant part to the failure of a handful of counties that Republicans control in the Dallas-Fort Worth to report any new cases in the past two days. The suburban locations of Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker and Rockwall counties all registered dramatic record spikes on Wednesday before all five posting goose eggs on Thursday and Friday in a move that's clouded their credibility and the state's as well.
But Tarrant County where Fort Worth is the seat hadn't found the miracle cure when it broke a single-day record for new coronavirus cases with 517 - a daily tally that was 32 more than the previous high mark that was set on May 11.
Records were toppled in the San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Laredo and Waco areas as well on Friday with Bexar, Nueces, Webb and McLennan County recording their highest daily new case numbers.
But Abbott hasn't deemed the state's soaring coronavirus case and hospital admission rates to be severe enough to a Texas Republican Convention that had the potential to be a massive breeding ground for a late summer surge if the governor doesn't stop it from taking place.
Abbott gave Texas beaches and parks at rivers and lakes a special exemption from the first round of restrictions that he's issued in the past two months despite the fact that they've been fueling the virus spread here substantially with young adults partying together as though they'd been oblivious to the worst pandemic in more than 100 years.
Abbott had been cracking down on saloon keepers for the past two weeks with Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission undercover stings that culminated in nearly 20 bars or more having their licenses revoked for not enforcing social distancing requirements that were a strict condition for reopening.
The latest closure order sparked outrage among bar owners who'd been caught by surprise even though they should have seen the handwriting on the wall with the TABC permit suspensions.
But Abbott had been a more forgiving governor during the initial outbreak when he effectively rubber-stamped Shelley Luther's illegal behavior retroactively after she'd gone to jail for operating her beauty shop in late April in open defiance of a gubernatorial decree that had shuttered it.
Instead of holding Luther accountable for actions that put the public health at greater risk of illness and death, the governor turned her into a hero on the hard right with the panicked revisions of an order that had made her confinement behind bars possible.
As the first and only true lockdown protest celebrity, Luther rallied swiftly to the defense of Texas bar owners with a promise on Facebook to lead a fight against the new closure with an announcement on how she will do that coming soon.
Luther might not have much time anymore for hair or nails with a substantial amount of attention devoted now to an anti-coronavirus restrictions group that started called Courage to Stand. Luther has taken her cause from Laredo to Michigan to Connecticut to lead protests against COVID-19 limitations that have been designed to protect the public health and safety.
Abbott had portrayed Luther as a martyr who he'd set free in a meeting with President Donald Trump on the same day that he'd gutted his emergency authority on her behalf. Luther will be returning the favor again now.