HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — A pre-Thanksgiving report from the White House told Texas that the state’s leaders need to do more. Mitigation efforts must intensify and Texas is in the red zone for cases, the report contended.
But Gov. Greg Abbott’s office told ABC13 on Tuesday that Texas has the protocols in place. A spokesperson said, “It worked this summer, it will work now if people follow the guidelines.”
The governor’s office also said Texas has mechanisms in place, citing the emergency measure that orders bars to close and restaurants to reduce their capacity to 50% if COVID-19 hospitalizations exceed 15% of capacity for more than seven days in row in a given Trauma Service Area.
But when we see video like what was recorded at a Houston nightclub last week, a place which has already had its liquor license suspended twice since the end of June, isn’t there more to do?
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Mayor Sylvester Turner agrees with the White House assessment. He has mentioned the possibility of a curfew. We pressed him on Wednesday as to what the threshold might be and why he hasn’t done it yet.
“I don’t rule anything out,” Turner said. “But at this point, what I can tell is we’re not there. That’s like … That’s a nuclear option. The governor has the ability to utilize less nuclear options.”
Turner also said, as he has for months, that Abbott has stripped his ability to do much more. All the power lies in Austin, and though he has done what he can by cancelling parades and other in-person events like the city’s Christmas tree lighting, which will be virtual now, he also said he does not have the manpower to enforce mask restrictions or club occupancy when working to fight rising crime.
“On a local level, our resources are fairly thin and so it makes it difficult for fire marshals, for police officers, to be going from one establishment to another when we are fighting the criminal element, and fires, and so many other things we are having to deal with,” Turner said.
To that, the governor’s office said, “The mayor has said he cannot enforce the current restrictions, so what confidence is there he would enforce further restrictions he is asking for?”
They also suggested Turner could use CARES Act funding to hire more people to enforce capacity limits.
But the mayor is right when he said he has little power to enforce restrictions. Most all of the power lies with the state, and that is where the White House report seeks action.
“The state is driving the car,” Turner said. “We are passengers.”
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