AUSTIN (KXAN) — On the heels of Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement Monday that some businesses can reopen Friday, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt joined KXAN News Today and gave context on what the county’s response will look like.
Eckhardt put it bluntly when it came to the governor’s announcement.
“I believe the governor opened up too much business too fast,” Eckhardt said.
Eckhardt said she appreciated the statewide response, and she’s grateful for the governor for “setting statewide parameters,” but she says the county and other local governments have a better sense of what’s going on when it comes to local hospital capacity.
“The counties have been on the frontline of this pandemic for two months now,” Eckhardt said. “We have a much clearer, more localized view of what our health care capacity is, and what it looks like if we overrun that capacity. While I agree that now is the time to start planning for a phased and measurable reopening of businesses, there wasn’t a lot of clarity on what those measures are.”
Eckhardt said that’s where local leaders can help a ton, to create a localized template for whether the advance is truly an economic and health advance, or just an economic advance.
Part of Gov. Abbott’s plan is to allow businesses to operate at 25% capacity, but Eckhardt says that’s going to be pretty hard to enforce.
“That’s one of the troubling aspects of the order itself,” Eckhardt said. “Without an enforcement mechanism, it creates an unlevel playing field.” She said that effectively penalizes businesses that play by the rules.
When asked if she had any input on the governor’s order, or if there was any communication with him or his office about it, Eckhardt simply answered, “No.”
She said the White House’s recommendations for reopening businesses was to have a two-week decline in both actual hospitalizations and positive cases before moving into the first phase.
Eckhardt says Travis County hasn’t seen that yet, and the county’s death rate has climbed.
“The fact that our cases are climbing, our hospitalizations are climbing and our deaths are climbing would indicate to me that it’s not yet time to go into phase one,” Eckhardt said. “That doesn’t mean it’s not time to plan for phase one. I 100% agree with the governor that we do need a phased approach to reopening, but it needs to be measured.”