April 10, 2020

Virus Juggling

Texas Republican Governor Hints on Gradual Jump-Start of Economy
as Patrick Suggests that He'd Been Part of Decision to Call Off SXSW

MIKE HAILEY

Governor Greg Abbott indicated on Friday that he plans to ease some restrictions on businesses next week in an attempt to strike a delicate balance between the public health and the economy in Texas where the coronavirus hasn't been as deadly up to now as it has in other major states.

As Abbott offered a vague preview of a deliberate approach that he expects to take in a game plan for an economic rekindling here, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick appeared to be backing off an earlier pitch for a rapid return to business as usual and attempting to share credit with Democrats who'd gotten the shuttering of Texas under way a month ago.

COVID-19 RATE MAJOR STATES
Population Divided by Cases & Deaths <
STATE CASES DEATH
New York 111 2,467
New Jersey 163 4,597
Michigan 445 7,827
Pennsylvania 638 30,627
Illinois 708 21,226
Georgia 924 25,523
Florida 1,225 55,071
California 1,871 67,774
Ohio 1,989 50,602
Texas 2,478 121,831
N. Carolina 2,566124,858

The state's two highest-ranking officials seem to be on the same basic page with President Donald Trump with his promises in recent days to have the American economy back in business early next month despite fears that his timetable could be a ticket for a disaster worst than the U.S. has experienced so far. Patrick has been Trump's most prominent supporter in Texas where Abbott and other Republicans have done their best to stay on the president's good side since he took over at the nation's helm.

But Trump's optimistic expectations fly in the face of warnings from leading medical and scientific experts like federal official Anthony Fauci who are concerned that Americans could be setting the stage for a second COVID-19 wave if they fail to continue to abide by limitations on businesses and public movement that are in place now before it's deemed safe to resume daily routines.

Patrick asserted in the telephone conversation with Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey and other activists that Fauci has dramatically overestimated the potential for coronavirus fatalities before cutting the projection in half in the past few days. Patrick also contended that Fauci had been off the mark in January when he ostensibly predicted that the disease didn't pose a significant threat to the U.S. despite the devastation that it was causing at the time in China and Italy. Fauci supporters have insisted that his early projections had proven to be indisputably accurate and that his initial forecast had been misrepresented by conservatives who'd been trying to undermine his credibility.

Patrick raised some eyebrows when he implied that he'd had a role in the cancellation of the South By Southwest film and music festival in Austin four weeks ago. Austin Mayor Steve Adler - a Democrat who's been an enemy in the eyes of the state's top ranking GOP leaders - formally pulled the plug on SXSW on March 13 when people were starting to arrive in the Capitol City for the third largest film festival in the world.

"One of the best things we did was not have South By Southwest," Patrick said.

The indefinite postponement of the massive event that draws visitors from around the world triggered a chain reaction that culminated in a flurry of local orders before Abbott issued the first in a series of virus-releated executive directives six days after Austin put the brakes on SXSW. More than 90 percent of the residents in Texas were forced to began the practice of social distancing as a result of decrees that mayors and county judges had imposed before Abbott extended the same basic restrictions statewide on March 31.

Patrick acknowledged in the discussion that he'd caught a tremendous amount of heat for declaring last month that senior citizens would be willing to die as collateral damage in the battle with the coronavirus if that's what it would take to get the economy back on track.

Abbott correctly noted in a briefing today at the Capitol that Texas hasn't been ravaged as severely by the pandemic as most of the nation's other large states.

North Carolina is the only state that's ranked in the top 10 in population that's had a lower rate of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths than Texas based on an ongoing global tally by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

One of every 2,474 people in Texas have tested positive for the disease that's killed one of every 2,467 in New York as the epicenter of the coronavirus in the U.S.

CONSIDER THE SOURCE

Mike Hailey presents state politics with a personal touch. He's the only Texas Capitol journalist who's been to the dark side and back - having worked for two major newspaper bureaus before signing on as press secretary for Bob Bullock - the most powerful and legendary political leader of his time in the state. Hailey's Comment, which is published in Capitol Inside on a regular basis, is a direct reflection of that experience.

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03-25-20: Doomsday Tax

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03-19-20: Political Casualties

03-12-20: Closed for Business

03-05-20: Salvation Show

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02-19-20: Mad at Trump

02-18-20: Senate Special

02-05-20: Handshake Play

02-04-20: Trump Shadow

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