Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, admitted in a private call with lawmakers last week that his decision to lift Covid-19 safety guidelines and reopen the state's economy "will lead to an increase and spread" of the virus that has infected more than 34,000 Texans and killed nearly 1,000.
"How do we know reopening businesses won't result in faster spread of more cases of COVID-19?" Abbott asked during a Friday call with members of the Texas legislature and Congress. "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 businesses or of just a reopening of society—in the aftermath of something like this, it actually will lead to an increase and spread. It's almost ipso facto."
Listen to the clip:
BREAKING: As @GovAbbott reopens the state in the midst of a rising infection and death rate, leaked audio from a call with Texas Legislators reveals that he knows reopening puts more Texans at risk. #txlege pic.twitter.com/kTK4M8gpSY
— Progress Texas (@ProgressTX) May 5, 2020
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As The Daily Beast reported, "though Abbott has repeatedly said in public interviews that reopening 'can' or 'could' cause a spike in cases, the audio recording from last Friday's call appeared to show a more direct and certain understanding of the risks."
Texas is one of several states currently taking steps to reopen businesses even as public health experts warn of a massive surge in Covid-19 deaths if safety guidelines are relaxed. Internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projections that emerged earlier this week show that the nationwide coronavirus death toll could soar to 3,000 per day by June.
Last Thursday, the day before Abbott allowed Texas businesses to reopen at limited capacity, an additional 1,033 Texans tested positive for the coronavirus and 50 died, according to figures released by the state health department. Out of concern for public health, some local Texas leaders are considering extending county-level stay-at-home orders even as the governor pushes to lift restrictions.
On Tuesday, as audio from his private call went viral, Abbott announced that he will allow tanning salons, hair salons, and barbershops to reopen Friday.
"Gov. Abbott does not care about the lives of Texans, and specifically black and brown Texans. He demonstrates this in every step of his leadership," tweeted Rae Martinez, director of advocacy group Texas Rising. "Our governor is morally bankrupt. Your friends deserve better, your family deserves better, you deserve better."