Coronavirus: Texas governor caught on mic saying reopening businesses will increase spread

Greg Abbott’s deputy has also said ‘there are more important things than living’

Andrew Naughtie
Thursday 07 May 2020 07:01
Texas governor says reopening businesses will help coronavirus spread

Leaked audio has captured the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, conceding that overwhelming scientific evidence is that reopening businesses will increase the spread of coronavirus – even as he himself authorises a phased relaxation of his state’s lockdown measures.

The audio was released as Texas’s Covid-19 death count approached 1,000, with some counties reporting their highest daily numbers of new cases so far.

On the conference call with state legislators, Mr Abbott made no bones about the implications of allowing businesses to resume operations. “How do we know reopening businesses won’t result in faster spread of more cases of Covid-19?

“Listen, the fact of the matter is pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening – whether you want to call it a reopening of business, or just a reopening of society – in the aftermath of something like this, that it actually will lead to an increase in spread.

“So it’s almost ipso facto, the more that you have people out there, the greater possibility there is for transmission.”

Texas’s reopening schedule is soon to begin. Hair and nail salons will be able to reopen on Friday, earlier than originally planned; the announcement came shortly after two Republican lawmakers staged a protest against the lockdown by getting illegal haircuts.

Mr Abbott is not alone in his acknowledgement that lifting the lockdown will spread the virus. His immediate deputy, lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, has said that older Americans should accept the risk of dying from the virus to allow business to continue. His rationale is that saving America’s economy should be top priority. As he put it, “there are more important things than living”.

Texas is one of several states allowing certain businesses to reopen, many of them against public health advice from experts including those on the president’s own task force. Among them is Florida, where governor Ron DeSantis was originally criticised for his slow response to the virus’s spread.

The state has not experienced the explosion of cases originally feared, but there are no guarantees that reopening for business will not allow a second wave of infections to begin.

Also easing some restrictions, albeit more incrementally, is California, where governor Gavin Newsom this week said counties that meet various conditions can permit certain types of businesses to reopen.

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