Across the state of Texas, and the entire world, everyday life has been disrupted by the Chinese coronavirus and government efforts to contain it. It was roughly one month ago that the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was canceled in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus, and since then, large swaths of the state have been mostly shut down under stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s most recent order runs through the month of April. But will it be extended? Your guess is as good as mine.
That needs to change.
There’s currently a wide variance in the degree to which grassroots citizens are concerned about the virus—from those who believe it to be a simple, seasonal respiratory ailment that people are overly concerned about to those who maintain we should be doing even more to mitigate what could be the deadliest plague we’ve seen since the Black Death.
There are some who think we need to continue shutdowns of large sectors of the economy and others who believe we’re likely applying a medicine more painful than the disease.
But something that should unite all Texans is the demand for government officials to demonstrate they have a plan—something they’re eschewing entirely at the moment.
At yesterday’s press conference, Gov. Greg Abbott was asked by Texas Scorecard’s Brandon Waltens if he was reviewing the feedback on his executive orders impacting small businesses and planning on issuing any adjustments to them. The governor demurred and seemed to imply he was waiting on advising from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
But Steve Mnuchin wasn’t elected to represent 29 million Texans. Abbott was. And he needs to demonstrate that there’s more to his Chinese coronavirus response plan than “hang by the phone and wait for Steve Mnuchin.”
That status quo would not be acceptable in the aftermath of a Gulf Coast hurricane, West Texas tornado, or hypothetical North Texas hailstorm. And it’s not acceptable today.
In order to maintain trust in government and to give taxpayers confidence that the state will recover and basic order will be restored, Abbott and other elected leaders need to articulate their current plan for a return to normalcy and what a successful path to get there looks like.
It’s reasonable for Abbott to communicate changes to an established plan based on new developments such as an increased infection or death rate or a perceived shortfall in hospital capacity, but there has to be a clearly articulated plan to recovery with a projected end date and definable goals.
Right now, Texans have been left wanting—even Texas Congressman Chip Roy.
Last month, Roy, a Republican who represents much of the Texas Hill Country, argued in National Review that citizens need a date certain for what is essentially a “grand reopening” when virtually all restrictions are lifted.
“Government action in response to the coronavirus is crippling our economy, destroying jobs, and risking a prolonged recession. The only thing that will stop the destruction is for our leadership to give Americans a very clear mission—and a quick date certain by which to carry it out — to get the health-care situation under control and get our economy back to normal,” wrote Roy. “We need a coronavirus ‘D-Day’ in a matter of weeks, not months, to beat the virus and save our economy. The clock is ticking.”
Roy articulated earlier this week his proposed date might be May 1 for Texas and much of America, but he did not articulate the standards needed in order to carry through with the “grand reopening.”
Abbott should set his own goals and standards and articulate them to the public.
We can all debate about what the plan should be, but this is something Abbott was elected to decide. And if he will act, local government officials will be largely obligated to follow his lead out of deference or law.
There will be plenty of time after the Chinese coronavirus pandemic is over to scrutinize the actions of government to mitigate the spread of the novel disease. Right now, it’s more important for citizens to demand lawmakers chart a defined course to the end of this crisis.