May 12, 2020

Texas Power Trio Backs Federal Virus Liability Limits
to Avert State Fight that Dem Majority Would Threaten

Coronavirus Modelers May
See End of Siege in Sight

The expert outlook for the coronavirus recovery has brightened in Texas amid predictions that the daily death count here will start to subside later in May or the first week in June while the rate of confirmed infections could already be on the decline.

But the rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases continued to climb here on Tuesday when the state reported that 1,179 people tested positive for the disease in the past 24 hours.

With 33 more fatalities in the same span of time, Texas had recorded 41,048 coronavirus cases and 1,133 deaths since the outbreak here in March. The more optimistic projections appear to be a function of an increase in testing around the state of people who aren't already sick.

While the number of cases and deaths both went up 19 percent here in the past week, the number of tests that were taken in Texas jumped 26 percent in the same time frame.

Virus trackers at the University of Washington lowered their projections on Monday for fatalities here for the next three months nevertheless when they estimated that the virus will have killed 2,567 people in Texas by August 4 - a 27 percent reduction from the number that the scientists in Seattle had been predicting.

The model at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at UW sees the Texas death rate taking a turn to the south on Tuesday and continuing to go down for the next 80 days before people here are no longer losing their lives from coronavirus attacks.

The UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium is currently predicting that the daily increases in coronavirus fatalities will climb for six more days until reaching an apex on Monday when the second phase of the Texas reopening that Governor Greg Abbott is directing will get under way with gyms, nonessential manufacturers and some other companies having permission to come back to life then if they choose.

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Governor Greg Abbott and the state's top two legislative leaders offered a preview of a battle that could be erupting at the Texas Capitol next year when they launched a push for federal limitations on lawsuits that hospitals and businesses that have been on the front line in the war on the coronavirus could eventually face.

Abbott teamed up with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen on a letter that they sent to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for an expansion of restrictions on potential liability stemming from exposure to COVID-19.

The growing support among Republicans for liability safeguards is shaping as the major sticking point for the next emergency relief package that Democrats who control the U.S House are crafting in a move designed to help the states that have been hit hard by the virus. GOP leaders appear to see new limits on possible damages from suits prompted by the pandemic as a necessary concession for their support for a stimulus bill that would have a majority of benefits directed to states that are led by Democrats.

But the trio of Republicans who are the highest-ranking Texas officials could have an added incentive in the press for litigation limits beyond their central argument that federal legislation is necessary to business that are based here but operate in or have supply chains in other states.

The Texas power triumvirate's members have cause to be concerned that Republicans in the state Legislature would not be able to pass a liability restriction measure during the next regular session in 2021 if Democrats seize the House majority at the polls in November like they have a chance to do. There's no mention of partisan considerations, however, in the letter that Abbott, Patrick and Bonnen fired off to McConnell today.

"Facing record unemployment and an unprecedented financial crisis, we must take immediate and swift action to protect our state’s job creators and our healthcare industry from crippling litigation that would certainly delay the full recovery of our economy," the Texas leader contended.

"Federal action is the swiftest course to provide liability protections, and we ask for your leadership and support for such measures in the next phase of COVID-19 recovery legislation. Because many Texas businesses and healthcare providers operate in multiple states or have multi-state supply chains, the United States Congress is uniquely positioned to deliver the appropriate nation-wide solution."

A bipartisan coalition of support in Austin for similar legislation at the state level could be possible among Democrats who have more health care professionals in their ranks now as a consequence of Obamacare. But trial lawyers who've been the Democrats' most lucrative source of funding could be expected to oppose such a plan at the state Capitol on the grounds that it could be stripping people of their right to hold businesses and professionals accountable for mistakes that could have been prevented.

COVID-19 exposure is quickly becoming the next hot spot on the political battlefield as a result.


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