April 14, 2020

Conservative State Legislator Pitches Reopening Plan
with Caveats and Isolation Mandates for Older Texans

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

A Republican state lawmaker who's a tea party product urged Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday to reopen the entire business sector in Texas with social distancing and protective requirements in place for six months or less despite fears of a coronavirus surge with the easing of restrictions that were imposed last month.

But the recommendations that State Rep. Matt Krause of Fort Worth proposed in a letter to the governor have the potential to spark a massive political and legal backlash because they wouldn't allow senior citizens and people with health problems to move as freely as younger Texans.

The conservative legislator wants people who are over the age of 65 and Texans of all ages to remain under shelter-in-place orders for the time being based on "increased risk" that Krause says they face if given the green light to have the same freedom of movement as the rest of the state's residents.

But the restrictions on older Texans could be a tough sell in a state where demographic studies show that the highest rates of coronavirus positive tests have been substantially higher among people who are between the ages of 20 and 60 than those who Krause wants to remain isolation.

Krause - an attorney who will be dueling Democratic challenger Lydia Bean in the November general election - advised Abbott to give permission for the reopening of restaurants, gyms, salons and retail establishments that have been shuttered for most of the past month as a result of a gubernatorial order that tagged them as non-essential to everyday survival.

"All businesses are essential for consumers; and, all businesses are essential to the employees who need work to earn a living and provide for their families," Krause contended.

But Krause encouraged Abbott to limit businesses to operating at 50 percent capacity in the 25 Texas counties with the largest counties and other areas where the number of COVID-19 cases that have been officially confirmed has been going up.

Krause said restaurants should be required to remove items that people at the same tables share like salt and pepper shakers and ketchup bottles in a move designed to reduce the coronavirus spread. Eating establishments also would have to keep tables spaced apart in line with federal guidelines if the governor endorsed the package of Krause proposals.

Restaurants and bars across most of the state have only been allowed to operate if they offer curbside pick up or delivery are have been equipped with drive-though windows. But dining inside commercial establishments has been prohibited under orders that Abbott and local leaders implemented as the coronavirus spread intensified in Texas in March.

Krause recommended that Texas schools remain closed until the fall semester when they should be prepared to go back to business as usual barring circumstances that he currently doesn't foresee.

The suburban legislator who's served in the lower chamber since 2013 also advised the governor to order self-quarantines of 14 days for people who test positive for the coronavirus with a focus on testing for antibodies and immunity when such a process is approved.

Krause would encourage but not mandate the use of personal protective equipment like masks and gloves without any restrictions on public gatherings as long as social distancing guidelines that the federal Centers for Disease Control has established are followed.

The proposals represent a significant political gamble for Krause in a re-election bid for a seat that's within the Democrats' reach in a district where Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz beat Democratic foe Beto O'Rourke by less than 3 percentage points in 2018.

Krause is a charter member of the tea party-backed group known as the Texas Freedom Caucus.


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