Texas plans to ease restrictions on social distancing and reopen its economy Friday — a day after recording the state's highest number of Covid-19 deaths — generating anger and frustration from labor rights activists and Democrats.
"Workers should not have to choose between their livelihoods and their physical safety in a workplace," Texas AFL-CIO president Rick Levy told the Associated Press.
AP reported that Texas saw 50 coronavirus deaths on Thursday, the one-day record thus far for the state coming in the midst of increasing cases.
"The state-reported death toll of 119 over the past three days marks the deadliest stretch since Texas' first fatality in the pandemic was recorded March 17," according to AP. "Thursday's 1,033 new cases is the first time the state has been over 1,000 since April 10."
But Gov. Greg Abbot is undeterred in his mission to reopen Texas. A stay-at-home order issued by Abbot expired Friday and the Republican leader declined to renew it, expressing a desire to reopen the state's economy.
As AP reported:
Abbott has pushed for the reopening to rescue a state economy walloped by staggering unemployment.
Abbott's new order allows restaurants, retailers, malls and movie theaters statewide to open at 25% capacity. Counties with no more than five confirmed cases of the coronavirus will be able to serve customers at a 50% threshold. Bars, barbershops, hair salons, and gyms remain closed, as do universities and schools for more than 5 million children.
The governor's move was panned by the Texas Democratic Party, which said in a statement that the decision represented a "dark day in Texas."
"Abbott's decision to let Texas' stay-at-home order expire is reckless, irresponsible, and puts all of us at risk," the party said.
While reopening the state has won Abbot the praise and support of President Donald Trump, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday night cautioned that reopening too soon would be a mistake.
"The discretion is given to the governors," Fauci told CNN. "They know their states, the mayors know their cities, so you want to give them a little wiggle room. But my recommendation is, you know, don't wiggle too much. Try as best as you can to abide by the guidelines that were very well thought out, and very well delineated."
Texas State University virologist Rodney Rhode advised in comment to the Texas Tribune that Abbot must be prepared to shut down the state again if cases spike in the wake of reopening.
"If this unfolds in a way we don't like, like all of a sudden we see a spike in cases, we all must be prepared to step right back into losing those easements of restrictions," said Rhode, warning that "we might have to shelter in place again."