AUSTIN (KXAN) — Families of COVID-19 victims in Texas, where the virus has killed nearly 15,000 people, called on Gov. Greg Abbott to apologize for his handling of the pandemic and return control to local authorities.
The Beat Abbott Political Action Committee hosted a virtual event Friday with four people who have lost family members to COVID-19. The PAC launched its first ad against Abbott Sept. 10, with a goal of spending seven figures on ads against Abbott by the end of 2020.
Fiana Tulip’s mother, a respiratory therapist, died from COVID-19 in July. She wrote a letter to Abbott inviting him to her mother’s funeral, an invitation he didn’t accept.
“My mother likely contracted the virus in the hospital where she worked during the period that you forbade local governments from implementing their own safety measures,” Tulip wrote in the letter.
“Abbott can no longer claim ignorance.”
Abbott announced Thursday further steps to reopen the Texas economy, as new cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have declined. Hospital regions with fewer than 15% of COVID-19 patients occupying hospital beds will enter the next stage, which allows most businesses operating at 50% capacity to increase to 75% capacity beginning Sept. 21.
Starting Sept. 24, Abbott said all nursing home facilities, assisted living centers, state-supported living centers and other long-term care facilities are allowed to reopen for visitation, providing they comply with certain health protocols, and there must not be a COVID-19 outbreak in the facility.
All of those facilities are now allowed to offer essential caregiver visits, Abbott said.
Bars will remain closed.
“Texans have shown that we can address both the health and safety concerns of COVID, while also taking carefully measured steps to restore the livelihoods that Texans desperately need,” Abbott said.
The group, organized by the Beat Abbott PAC, called on Abbott to return control over managing the pandemic back to local authorities. But Austin Public Health Interim Health Authority Mark Escott indicated Friday that he is comfortable, to a degree, with the governor’s next steps.
“We’re not entirely upset with the governor,” Escott said. “I think he’s trying to balance the risk to our health and safety and the risk to the economy. I think we’re probably a couple of weeks away from a position where we would have supported (further reopening of the economy).”