Gov. Abbott Says His Orders Will Override Those of Local Officials If He Decides to Open Things Up

Mayor Turner at his Tuesday press conference.
Mayor Turner at his Tuesday press conference.

The same Texas governor who earlier in the spread of the coronavirus said he was leaving certain decisions to mayors and county judges, said at his Tuesday press conference that if his new order expected on April 27 conflicts with any local stay-at-home orders — his rules will override anyone else's.

As Greg Abbott ran through a lengthy list of employers looking to hire in Texas along with what he said are more than 481,000 job openings he made it clear that he believes Texans want to get back to work. Abbott had already re-opened state parks (with social distancing restrictions) as of Monday, April 20, loosened restrictions on medical procedures (April 22) and has also said non-essential retail businesses can open on Friday, April 24 as long as they use pickup and delivery rather than allow customers inside their stores. He did shut down schools for the rest of the 2019-20 year.

On Tuesday, Dallas County Commissioners voted 3-2 to extend their stay at home order until May 15. Asked at his press conference what would happen if he orders an end to stay-at-home or other relaxations of his initial order in contradiction of the Dallas County order, Abbott said his directive would take precedence.

In Houston and Harris County, stay at home orders are in place through April 30. In separate press conferences Tuesday, both Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo emphasized the need for more testing to better determine where the local region is in terms of the disease.

Asked directly about Abbott's statement that his order would supersede anyone's at the local level, Turner said, "I mean, he's the governor," before adding that he hoped leaders wouldn't be sending out mixed messages on what was needed to keep the number of COVID-19 cases from escalating. "If the messaging becomes conflicting, it becomes difficult to continue to ask people to make these sacrifices," Turner said.

As for Hidalgo when asked about the governor's statement, she repeated previous comments that she has been working closely with Gov. Abbottt  and said they just need to see what happens in the next few days. "I think in many ways we are in a great place in terms of bipartisanship. I don't think it's time to stir things up," she said.

Mayor Turner had good news to report from the Houston Health Department in that for the second day running there were no new deaths in the city and only 20 new cases. The city's health authority Dr. David Persse warned, however, that because of the continued lag in some reporting, it can be a mistake to draw too strong a conclusion from what appears to be a one- or two-day drop in numbers when it may just mean the data didn't reach the city at the same rate as other data.

Harris County was reporting one more death and now a total of 2,195 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in the unincorporated areas of the county. The combined death total for city and county stands at 79.