Abbott extends emergency declaration as critics call for special legislative session

Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday announced he has extended the state disaster declaration after widespread criticism, censures, lawsuits and Texans have called on him to convene a special legislative session to effectively deal with the coronavirus in the wake of four months of shutdowns and more than 3 million people out of work.

Texas leads the nation in coronavirus recoveries, and its coronavirus death rate as a share of the population is 0.01 percent.

Originally issued on March 13th, the Disaster Declaration provides the state a number of resources to effectively mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“Extending this Disaster Declaration helps ensure that Texas has the resources and flexibility needed to effectively respond to COVID-19,” Abbott said. “To further mitigate the spread of the virus and overcome this challenge, Texans should continue to do their part by wearing a mask, social distancing, and staying home if possible.”

According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus database, out of a population of roughly 29 million people, there have been 2.6 million tests for the coronavirus. Among them, 230,346 positive cases have been reported, or 0.79 percent of the population. Roughly 8.85 percent of those who have been tested have tested positive for the virus. Only those who are presenting symptoms are tested, so the number is not representative of the entire population.

There have been an estimated 118,326 recoveries, and 2,918 reported coronavirus-related deaths as of July 9, according to the data reported by the state.

Former legislators, Republicans and conservatives have filed multiple lawsuits against Abbott for actions he’s taken that they argue violate the Texas and U.S. Constitutions.

With a successful recovery rate and significantly low death rate of one tenth of one percent, critics argue there is no reason for the governor not to reopen the state to get people fully back to work.

In Dallas County, the number of total coronavirus cases is 29,160, since the state and county began tracking the data. Of them, there have been 16,192 recoveries and 426 deaths. As of July 8, there are 11,529 active cases. Of the county’s 2.6 million people, the coronavirus case number/infection rate is 1.1 percent. The death rate as a share of the population is 0.016.

In Harris County, the reported number of total coronavirus cases is 40,012. Of them there have been 12,856 recoveries and 411 deaths. As of July 8, there are 26,048 active cases. Of the county’s 4 million people, the case number/infection rate is 1.0 percent. The death rate as a share of the population is 0.01 percent.

In Tarrant County, the reported number of total coronavirus cases is 16,180. Of them, there have been 7,018 recoveries and 254 coronavirus-related deaths. As of July 8, there are 8,319 active cases. Of the county’s 2 million people, the case number/infection rate is 0.80 percent. The death rate as a share of the population is 0.01 percent.

In Travis County, the reported number of total coronavirus cases is 13,161. Of them, there have been 9,837 recoveries and 159 coronavirus-related deaths. As of July 8, there are 2,420 active cases. Of the county’s 1.2 million people, the case number/infection rate is 1.0 percent. The death rate as a share of the population is .01 percent.

In Bexar County, the reported number of total coronavirus cases is 16,725. Of them, there have been 6,191 recoveries and 146 coronavirus-related deaths. As of July 8, there are 9,552 active cases. Of the county’s 2 million people, the case number/infection rate is .83 percent. The death rate as a share of the population is 0.007 percent.

In El Paso County, the reported number of total coronavirus cases is 8,385. Of them, there have been 5,155 recoveries and 145 coronavirus-related deaths. As of July 8, there are 9,552 active cases. Of the county’s roughly 840,000 people, the case number/infection rate is 0.99 percent. The death rate as a share of the population is 0.01 percent.

Texas is now averaging more than 50,000 COVID-19 tests per day. With increased testing, increased number of cases is to be expected. However, Texas has the 28th-lowest COVID case rate in the U.S.

In Texas, the COVID-19 positivity rate has also been flat for 10 days, even over the July 4th holiday weekend.

Of the staffed hospital beds available, 20 percent are open and available specifically for coronavirus patients, and 60.8 percent of Texas’ ventilators are available.

According to Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) calculations:

  • 17 percent of beds and 61 percent of ventilators are available in Dallas County;
  • 14 percent of beds and 53 percent of ventilators are available in Harris County;
  • 21 percent of beds and 62 percent of ventilators are available in Travis County;
  • 14 percent of beds and 52 percent of ventilators are available in Bexar County;
  • 17 percent of beds and 61 percent of ventilators are available in Tarrant County.

These are staffed beds, not licensed beds, the TPPF notes, meaning there are more hospital beds available, if hospitals were fully staffing their floors.

Texas’ 0.01 percent death rate is the lowest COVID-19 fatality rate of the most affected states, and it is tied for the 14th-lowest COVID-19 fatality rate in the U.S., the TPPF notes.

“While many seem to suggest that Texas is in bad shape, they aren’t telling the whole story,” David Balat, director of the Right on Healthcare initiative at the TPPF, told The Center Square. “The fact is Texas is one of the safest places to be during the pandemic. We should all be cautious, but we are not in the desperate crisis and overburdening hospital beds like many in the media and officials claim.”

States and counties that fail to reopen could cause economic output to fall by $2 trillion, the Heritage Foundation projects.

JoAnn Fleming, founder of Grassroots America We The People, in a recent email to activists said, “Under the cover of unconstitutional ‘Emergency Powers’ laws on the books, COVID-19 has been used to silence the voice of The People, expand government authority, commit taxpayers to untold debt, destroy businesses/jobs, empower socialist redistribution of wealth, put a government boot on churches, ration health care for non-COVID patients, and torch civil liberties.”

The Texas House Freedom Caucus released a letter it sent to Abbott arguing its case for the need for special legislative session.

“This is not hard or difficult to understand,” Fleming said. “Gov. Abbott should immediately call a special session of the legislature to allow for public hearings and debate about the appropriate, constitutional response to COVID-19.

“Forget calling the Governor’s Office,” she adds. “He did not heed the thousands of calls during the 2019 legislative session, nor those in support of our unity project – The Lone Star Agenda, nor calls about the shutdown, [or] contact tracing contract. He and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have ignored the last several Texas Conservative Grassroots Coalition letters as we attempted to lodge our grievances.”

More than 1,800 Texans have now sued Abbott over the state’s contact tracing program, up from 1,500 last month, which they argue violates constitutional rights and privacy laws. Roughly 400 others have also sued Abbott for issuing what they argue are unconstitutional executive orders.

Jared Woodfill, the attorney who has filed lawsuits on behalf of the plaintiffs and is a former Harris County Republican chairman, told the Center Square, “Governor Abbott continues to act like a king, refusing to convene the Legislature to address his unconstitutional orders. Abbott is unilaterally destroying our economy and trampling on our constitutional rights. Why won’t he convene the Legislature and allow our elected representatives to express their constituent’ voice?

“He seems to forget we live in a Republic, not a monarchy,” Woodfill adds.

Woodfill’s firm has filed suits at the Texas Supreme Court, the District Courts of Travis and Harris counties, and with the City of Galveston, and another is expected to be filed in federal court soon.



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