April 4, 2020

GOP Governor Says Fauci Gave State Good Reviews
for Standards that Are Weaker than He's Advocated

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Governor Greg Abbott suggested on Saturday that he'd received a thumbs up from the nation's most prominent expert in the war on the coronavirus as a result of statewide restrictions that he'd imposed this week in the face of mounting criticism for a languid response compared to most of his counterparts in other major states.

Abbott said that he'd detailed the standards that he'd announced in a telephone conversation with Anthony Fauci - the federal health official who's frequently sought to clarify and to refute statements that President Donald Trump has made as the COVID-19 pandemic terrorized Americans in the past two months.

"Dr. Fauci stated that this uniform standard, along with other actions implemented by Texas, will help achieve the goal of slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting public health," Abbott said in a summary of the phone chat with the presidential coronavirus task force's most visible and respected member.

The Republican governor didn't say whether he and Fauci had discussed the fact that Abbott had indicated that the limitations that he'd put in place across Texas were not a full-scale stay-at-home order like those that the top leaders in states like New York, California and Ohio had issued two weeks earlier.

Abbott also didn't mention if Fauci had offered his thoughts on a loophole in the Texas order that allows churches to conduct public worship services without limits on the number of people who attend them if ministers at houses of worship claim that it isn't possible to hold them online instead.

While Abbott told pastors that they congregations must abide by federal social distancing guidelines in gatherings that they stage with the executive order bypass, local leaders who'd been prohibiting such activities see the exemption as a blatant circumvention of the rigid isolation requirements that Fauci has been touting as a way to minimize the deadly disease's spread.

But Abbott deemed worship to be an essential service like food, medical treatment, prescription drugs and hygiene products such as soap and toilet paper even though millions of Texans aren't churchgoers.

Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the debate on whether worshiping in public is essential for physical and mental health will be watching to see if Abbott reconsiders the green light for churches amid revelations that 70 people or more who have been infected with COVID-19 in California had attended a a service at a Pentecostal church in Sacramento on Sunday.

Abbott said that he and Fauci spoke about a projected timetable for the coronavirus march across Texas where more than 6,300 cases have been confirmed with 105 deaths as the weekend got under way.

Abbott added that Fauci agreed that social distancing would be needed throughout the month of April without elaborating on whether the federal official indicated how long that he thought Americans would have to remain in isolation before it would safe to resume life as usual.

Abbott "concluded the conversation by reiterating Texas’ commitment to working with the federal government during the COVID-19 response and by thanking Dr. Fauci for his leadership and advice," the governor's office said.

But Abbott and other high-ranking Republicans in Texas have been more prone to follow Trump's lead with a much more deliberate approach amid the crisis than Fauci has been pleading with leaders at every level of government to take in the coronavirus battle. U.S. Senator John Cornyn said this week that a nationwide stay-at-home mandate that Fauci says that the country desperately needs would be an overreaction.

Fauci has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since landing the post in 1984 when Republican Ronald Reagan was the president. Fauci was an early pioneer in the fight against AIDS and protections from biochemical warfare in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

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