April 29, 2020

Conservative Legislator Touts Revolt Against GOP Governor
as State Party Slammed and Experts Say Texas Jumped Gun

The Governor's Report to Open Texas

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

The coronavirus claimed more lives in the past 24 hours in Texas than it has at any point in the past two week as a tea party lawmaker urged Texans on Wednesday to ignore restrictions that Governor Greg Abbott has imposed with a reopening plan that the state's preeminent expert says is destined to fail because it's been put in motion a month too soon.

As Texas recorded its second deadliest day during the pandemic with 42 fatalities since noon on Tuesday, GOP State Rep. Briscoe Cain of Deer Park sounded the call for an uprising against the Republican governor who conservatives are sharply assailing for taking a more cautious approach that they have been demanding for weeks.

"Open your business!," Cain declared in a tweet this morning. "They can’t jail us all."

Republicans on the hard right are taking aim at the Texas GOP today as well in the wake of a Tuesday night email that heaped praise on Abbott for trying to strike a balance between the need to restart the state's economy in a way that's swift and safe.

But internationally-revered Texas scientist who's been hot on the trail of a coronavirus vaccine disagreed with Republicans on both sides of the internal warring - portraying Abbott's Open Texas plan as a product of good intentions with a reasonable approach that might have had a chance for success if it had been implemented in June.

Hotez has been leading a team of researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in a rapid scramble to find a way to stop the COVID-19 killing spree with an effective booster injection that would create a herd immunity around the world. Hotez and his associates had developed the vaccine for an earlier strain of coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome - or SARS - that had killed hundreds of people in China more than a dozen years ago. Hotez was on the cutting edge of a vaccine that could have inoculated people from the virus that's already left almost a quarter-million deaths in its week including 742 in Texas by early afternoon on Wednesday.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported at noon on Wednesday that 42 people had died here from coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours - the second highest single-day tally since the state recorded 46 fatalities on April 15. Abbott had contended that the death rate had started to decline as the justification for the timetable that he laid out on Monday with a second phase set to begin no earlier than May 18 if the number of daily fatalities continued to go down.

The governor had been correct in the sense that the number of virus deaths here had been going down for a week before last weekend. But after recording 22 deaths per day for six days, Texas had 32 coronavirus fatalities on Friday and 30 more on Saturday. The state has reported 69 deaths from the virus in the past 48 hours with an average count of almost 26 in the last seven days.

An elite group of coronavirus trackers at the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation responded to the announcement of the Abbott reopening plan on Monday by doubling the projected number of deaths in Texas where they are predicting now that the novel disease will kill 1,447 people by the end of July.

The HME team agrees with the Hotez assessment with a determination that Texas doesn't have the hospital resources that would the initial phases of a reopening reasonably safe before June 15 with an effective containment strategy. The UW researchers had a June 8 target date for the easing of state-mandated social distancing before Abbott revealed this week that he will let the current stay-at-home order expire on schedule on Thursday.

Staunch conservatives like Cain are dismissing the experts' advice as flawed science - however - with some like Empower Texans leader Michael Quinn Sullivan ripping Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey for siding with the governor in an increasingly acerbic debate on the timing and extent of the reopening here.

"@BriscoeCain didn’t get the memo that @TexasGOP #TxLege members are supposed to issue fawning statement praising the unfailing wisdom and boldness of the @GregAbbott_TX STRIKE FORCE in timidly reopening Texas," Sullivan declared today in a tweet that was dripping with sarcasm and disgust.

Dickey, who's up for re-election at the state GOP convention that's been postponed until July, appeared to endorse the Abbott plan in a statement last night.

"Our economy has taken a tremendous blow but Texans are resilient — and ready to get back to work!" Dickey exclaimed. "We know the Governor is taking the precautions necessary to protect the health and safety of all Texans." 

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough - a former Texas House Republican - got the revolt under way on Tuesday when he told businesses in the suburban county that he represents that they could reopen on Friday despite the Abbott order that is only allowing restaurants, retailers and movie theaters to do so that soon.


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