For the majority of Texans, the draconian measures from the height of the COVID scare have mostly disappeared. Mask mandates have been abandoned even in the state’s most liberal cities. Capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements are largely a thing of the past.
But despite this reality, Texas has continued to operate under a state of emergency due to COVID for more than 26 months. Gov. Greg Abbott soon has an opportunity to finally end it.
On March 13, 2020, Abbott announced at a press conference in the Capitol that he would be declaring a state of emergency over the coronavirus after 39 cases were reported in the state of Texas.
“Declaring a state of disaster is a key component of these efforts because it allows the state to effectively serve the people of Texas without hindrance or delay,” Abbott said at the time.
But while the original order was set to expire after 30 days, it has been renewed every month since then. That emergency declaration has been the basis of every COVID-related executive order issued since—including lockdowns and mask mandates, all without input from the state Legislature.
It has ignited a conversation about the proper role of executive authority in emergencies—and when it goes too far. But despite the issue of executive overreach being a stated priority of the Republican Party of Texas last year, the state Legislature failed to pass any restrictions on the practice and even refused to vote to end the emergency orders themselves.
In March, State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) wrote to Abbott to ask him to end the orders, saying, “What started as ‘15 days to slow the spread’ has turned into 24 months of unprecedented government regulations, a massive transfer of wealth from small businesses to mega-corporations, families separated from loved ones, and fear permeating every thought and action.”
The governor, however, has continued to extend the order. His last 30-day extension was signed on April 22 and is set to expire on Sunday, May 22.
With Sunday’s deadline to extend—or not extend—the COVID state of emergency for Texas, Gov. Abbott has the opportunity to finally put the government overreach spurred by the virus in the rearview mirror.
As of publishing, Abbott’s office did not respond to an inquiry about whether he planned to extend the order.