Local News

Leading Off (3/3/21)

Gov. Greg Abbott, desperate to salvage his political career, lifts Texas' COVID restrictions, prompting jubilation, dread

Texas ‘Reopening’ Sows Confusion, Rejoicing, Dread. Some Texas politicians called the lifting of the mask order “Texas Independence Day.” Others said it was “A death sentence for Texans.” In a statement, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said Dallas residents should continue to wear masks. “We are getting closer to achieving herd immunity, and now is not the time to let down our guard,” the mayor said. At a press conference yesterday afternoon, County Judge Jenkins urged residents to continue to follow public health guidelines. “If you’re interested in knowing what you can get away with, listen to the governor,” Jenkins said. “If you’re interested in knowing what doctors say will keep you, your business and your family safe, listen to me and the doctors.”

Why Did the Governor Lift Restrictions? The Texas Tribune dives into the political context for Abbott’s decision, citing slipping approval ratings among Republican voters and loud voices on the far-right of the party criticizing the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 response. As Abbott faces primary pressure from within his party, former Congressman and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has all but announced a 2022 challenge for Abbott’s office. The exposure of the colossal mismanagement of the state’s electrical grid, which prompted the resignation of Abbott’s chair of the Public Utilities Commission this week, surely hasn’t helped.

Where Does the Order Leave Us? There are still places where you will have to wear a mask. Businesses are split on how to react to the lifting of the mask requirements, with some retailers saying they will still require masks, while others say only employees will be required to wear masks. All public facilities subject to federal guidelines, like airports, will require masks.

Schools, Sports Scramble to Respond. Most school districts say they will continue to follow CDC guidelines on requiring masks. The order means Rangers fans may finally see their new ballpark in action, however it is still unclear how local sports franchises will respond to the lifting of restrictions. WFAA sportscaster Dale Hansen called Abbott’s move “arrogant and short-sighted.”

Lack of Guidelines Leaves Restaurants in a Lurch. The lifting of the mask restrictions will force restaurant and small business owners to make difficult decisions regarding how to keep their staff safe and customers happy. “Coronavirus is still out there. It’s still a thing,” Airric Heidelberg, owner of Invasions in East Dallas, told the DMN. “So this is a little absurd to me, but I don’t want to get into the politics about it. It’s just crazy.” Vance Martin, who owns Lili’s Bistro on Fort Worth’s Magnolia Avenue, told WFAA: “I don’t know all the right answers right now, nor do I think really anybody does.”

Dallas County Pushes Past 3,000 COVID Deaths. New COVID deaths in Texas have nearly hit 9,000, while more than 3,000 people in Dallas County have now died from the disease. The county reported 25 new deaths and 526 new cases yesterday. WFAA spoke to some North Texans who have lost family members to COVID-19. “It feels disrespectful and it feels like a slap in the face to those who are hurting, because there’s still a long way to go,” said Fiana Tulip, whose mother died of COVID this past summer.

 

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