Republicans Texas

Red vs. Red in Texas, With Republicans Battling One Another After Mask Order – The New York Times

The virus has heightened long-simmering friction in the largest Republican-led state in the country, with Gov. Greg Abbott under attack from within his own party.

Credit…Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press

DALLAS — Texas Republicans have long sparred with one another, with feisty internal disputes in recent years over gun rights, bathroom bills and other culture-war issues. But since the spring, as the coronavirus began to take hold across the state, it has been an all-out battle of red versus red.

This month, Republican groups in eight counties censured the Republican governor after he issued a statewide mask order, saying that it infringed on their rights and followed the lead of Houston, San Antonio and other Democratic-led cities and counties that already required masks in businesses.

And on Monday, party activists ousted the chairman of the state party in favor of an outspoken firebrand conservative who called for President Barack Obama’s impeachment in 2014 and whose ascension to the top party post received a congratulatory tweet from President Trump.

In Texas, the virus has heightened long-simmering friction in the largest Republican-led state in the country, and for the first time Gov. Greg Abbott has come under serious attack from within his own party. The conflict in many ways is not unique to Texas. The rifts in the party run along some of the same establishment-versus-insurgent fault lines that years ago defined the rise of the Tea Party and of Mr. Trump.

“This has been building for a long, long time,” said State Senator Kel Seliger, a former mayor of Amarillo who is the second-most senior Republican in the Texas Senate and has served more than 16 years in office. “When a party dominates, it also becomes sort of arrogant and exclusive. It used to be back in the ’80s and ’90s, let’s all get together in this big Republican tent and be a majority. Increasingly, we’ve been ushering people out of the tent.”

Indeed, the clash is about more than conservative anger over the governor’s mask order, and has its roots in the ideological divide between the right and the far-right in Texas. Some of that same energy and tension in 2012 helped a lawyer named Ted Cruz who had never held elected office defeat a powerful Republican lieutenant governor to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.

As Democrats continue to make gains statewide, archconservatives have tried pushing Texas further to the right, while more moderate Republicans try to steer it closer to the center.


Credit…Nitashia Johnson for The New York Times

More than 130 local Republican leaders in eight counties publicly rebelled against Mr. Abbott and voted to formally censure him, a stunning rebuke for a politician who easily won re-election in 2018 and who until now has been the most popular Republican in the state. The censure votes were symbolic expressions of disapproval, largely over his statewide mask order. An effort to stiffen the punishment for being censured and to pass a statewide Republican resolution condemning the governor remains in the works.

Mr. Abbott, who faces re-election in 2022, was the first Republican governor of Texas in modern time to be officially reprimanded by a group of Republican county leaders.

“We feel that Abbott is going overboard in shutting down the economy,” said Lee Lester, the chairman of the Harrison County Republican Party in East Texas, one of the eight counties that censured the governor.

Mr. Lester, a retired insurance salesman who lives near the Louisiana border in a county that has recorded more than 500 coronavirus cases and nearly 70 deaths, said Mr. Abbott needed to “start acting like we think he should act, and that is looking at the overall picture — following the facts, not fear tactics.”

The divide has been evident in and around Fort Worth, the largest conservative-led city in Texas. Republicans in urban, suburban and rural Texas disagree on how the government should respond to the virus, and on whether masks cross a line.

Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth, which has seen an explosion of cases in recent days, expressed empathy rather than criticism for the governor and was as pro-mask as the Democratic mayors of Houston and other major cities. “Y’all wear a mask,” Ms. Price, a Republican, said in a recent public service announcement, through a white mask decorated with the silhouette of a Texas longhorn, the logo of a city whose nickname is Cowtown.

“It’s been a very measured approach in Fort Worth, not much knee-jerk reaction,” she said in an interview. “People are very much afraid, and when they’re afraid, they tend to be very critical of things.”

But nearby in the same county, in the affluent suburb of Colleyville, Mayor Richard Newton took a more aggressive approach. In April, he opened restaurants before state rules allowed it, and last month, he bucked a county mask order. “We just choose not to participate,” Mr. Newton told reporters at the time.

And in two counties, one to the northeast and one to the southwest of Fort Worth and Colleyville, the tenor is even more rebellious. Republican leaders in suburban Denton County and rural Hood County were among those who passed resolutions against the governor.

The disarray was on full display last weekend at the Republican state convention, typically a time of unity, networking and chest-thumping speeches for the dominant party in Texas. In a back-and-forth that lasted weeks, top Republican elected officials supported meeting virtually — as the Democrats did earlier this summer — while the party leadership voted to meet as planned in person in Houston, a Democrat-led city.

After losing a legal battle, the party gathered for a virtual convention that was delayed by technical problems. After it resumed, those who were fed up with the party’s chairman, James Dickey, helped push him out.

The party elected a new chairman, Allen B. West, a former Florida congressman who was chosen in part by appealing to the anti-Abbott sentiments over the statewide mask order. In a video message to delegates at the San Jacinto Monument outside Houston, a revered site commemorating the Texas battle for independence in 1836, he called the moment a “new battleground.”


Credit…Jeff Newman/dpa, via Associated Press Images

“There’s a new battlefield,” he said in the video, “and it’s really not too much different from what they faced — the despotism, the tyranny, that we see in the great state of Texas, where we have executive orders and mandates, people telling us what we can and cannot do, who is essential and who is not essential. It is time for us to stand up, and it is time for us to fight.”

In his own video address to delegates, Mr. Abbott acknowledged the criticisms over his mask mandate, but defended his actions, his authority to issue executive orders in emergencies and his dedication to conservative principles.

“I know that many of you do not like the mask requirement,” Mr. Abbott said in his remarks. “I don’t either. It is the last thing I wanted to do. Actually, the next to last. The last thing that any of us want is to lock Texas back down again. We must do all that we can to prevent that.”

Mr. Abbott, who did not respond to a request for an interview, remains popular with a number of Republican lawmakers and business leaders, and his supporters say the criticisms are coming from a small but loud wing of the party and will not amount to a threat to his re-election.

Even so, a Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday showed that his support among Republicans, while still strong, had slipped as the spread of the virus intensified: A quarter of respondents said they disapproved of Mr. Abbott’s handling of the virus, up from about 10 percent in early June.

At the same time, the governor has faced pressure from many public health officials and Democratic leaders to do more to stop the rising tide of infections, hospitalizations and deaths across the state.

“I told the governor’s people this: The virus will force you to take action, eventually,” said Clay Jenkins, a Democrat who is the top elected official in Dallas County and who has clashed with Mr. Abbott over the state response. “The challenge is when the doctors ask you to take action, go ahead and do it then.” He urged the closure of indoor dining and a delay in opening schools for in-person instruction.


Credit…Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Texas has become one of the largest coronavirus hot spots in the country, and Mr. Abbott, who began opening the state for business on May 1, has struggled to find the best approach to control it. Some Republicans had urged him to go faster in reopening businesses, and have pushed him to keep them open despite the spread of the virus.

“There’s just a division between what politically your base is wanting you to do, and what is the right thing to do,” said Mari Woodlief, a Republican political consultant in Dallas who worked on the Fort Worth mayor’s first campaign. “He did the right thing, but it was not what his base wanted him to do.”

After cases related to bars began to spike, Mr. Abbott ordered them closed in late June. For weeks, he said the government should not mandate mask-wearing, and then he reversed course before the Fourth of July weekend and put in place an order for most Texans.

Among the 25 American counties with the most cases per capita over the past week, nine are in Texas. That includes not just the populous counties that include Houston and Dallas, but also smaller counties that include San Angelo and Corpus Christi. The average daily case total has exploded to more than 10,000 statewide. In early July, Texas was averaging about 6,500 new cases daily. At the start of June, the figure hovered around 1,400.

Leaders in major cities, mostly Democrats, have asked for the power to impose county or city-specific stay-at-home orders; Mr. Abbott has so far refused, arguing that such measures should be voluntary. That stance is common among conservatives in the state, wary of government intrusions on personal liberty.

Sam Bryant, an Army veteran and Republican from Waxahachie, a solidly conservative suburb 30 miles south of Dallas, accused Mr. Abbott of doing the very thing the governor built his political career fighting against — government overreach.

Mr. Bryant, 38, a member of the governing board of the Republican Party of Texas until he left in frustration a few days ago, said he had already decided not to run for another term because the board was full of “a lot of establishment do-nothings.”

“I just think what’s happened is the party has lost its ability to deliver its message,” said Mr. Bryant, who cheered Mr. West’s takeover as chairman. “Why don’t we just disband the whole thing and start from scratch?”

Mitch Smith contributed reporting from Chicago, and David Montgomery from Austin.

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Texas woman

Texas woman charged in connection to murder of Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen – New York Post

July 2, 2020 | 11:39pm

A Texas woman has been charged with helping to mutilate and dispose of the body of missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen.

Cecily Aguilar, 22, faces one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence in Guillen’s April 22 disappearance from the Texas US Army base, NBC News reported Thursday.

The announcement comes one day after Guillen’s family said during an emotional press conference that they believed that remains found near the military base were those of the 20-year-old 3rd Cavalry Regiment soldier — and that a serviceman who shot himself as cops closed in was her killer.

Authorities on Thursday identified the serviceman as Aaron David Robinson, 20.

Investigators have not confirmed that the remains found in a mound near the base are those of Guillen.

But authorities said Thursday that a second suspect taken into custody this week was Aguilar, who was allegedly told by Robinson that he killed Guillen by hitting her in the head with a hammer, NBC said.

Aguilar, the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood soldier, is accused of helping Robinson get rid of the body by burying it in a remote site in Bell County near the base.

Authorities said last month that they suspected foul play in Guillen’s disappearance, who left her car keys, room key, ID card and wallet in the Fort Hood armory where she had been working.

Also on Thursday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and California Rep. Jackie Speier called for a federal probe into Guillen’s case.

“We believe a thorough investigation b the Department of Defense Inspector General can help establish a number of crucial facts about SPC Guillen’s workplace, disappearance, and the Army’s response to both,” they said in a letter for defense department Acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell.

“We are dismayed that we must ask these questions in the wake of SPC Guillen’s disappearance.”

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Governor Texas

Texas governor orders residents to wear face masks as coronavirus cases surge – The Guardian

Republican Greg Abbott had previously said government could not order people to wear masks

Greg Abbott adjusts his mask after speaking in Austin, Texas, in June.

Greg Abbott adjusts his mask after speaking in Austin, Texas, in June.
Photograph: Ricardo B Brazziell/AP

The governor of Texas has ordered that face coverings must be worn in public across most of the state, in a dramatic ramping up of efforts to control a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

The move marks a major reversal for Republican Greg Abbott, who had pushed Texas’s aggressive reopening of the state economy in May, and had previously said the government could not order individuals to wear masks. His prior virus-related orders had undercut efforts by local governments to enforce mask requirements.

But faced with rising numbers of newly confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus and a wave of hospitalizations, Abbott changed course with Thursday’s mask order. It requires “all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive Covid-19 cases, with few exceptions”.

“We are now at a point where the virus is spreading so fast, there is little margin for error,” Abbott said.

Texas reported 7,915 newly confirmed cases, a slight dip after passing the 8,000 mark for the first time on Wednesday. The 7,382 hospitalizations means the state has more than quadrupled its numbers in that category since the end of May.

The mask order takes effect Friday. Mask order violators can be fined up to $250. There are exceptions for people who have a medical condition or disability, who are exercising outdoors, or who are participating in a religious service or voting. Texas this week began its monthlong early voting period for its primary elections.

Mask orders have become a source of controversy in Texas and elsewhere in the US. Public health experts unanimously agree that masks help slow the spread of Covid-19, but many Americans argue they impair individual freedom.

Abbott also gave mayors and county authorities the ability to ban outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.

In his order and a statement, Abbott said wearing a mask was a proven method to slowing down the virus’ spread and said if Texans comply “more extreme measures may be avoided”.

Abbott has said he doesn’t want to roll back his previous orders to reopen the economy. But last week he moved to re-close bars and limit dine-in capacity in restaurants to 50%.

Abbott has been under extreme pressure from both Democrats and Republicans on his reopening plans. Democrats, most notably the leadership of the state’s largest cities, have complained Abbott reopened Texas too quickly and have pointed to the record numbers of confirmed new cases and hospitalizations. Conservative lawmakers, meanwhile, have battered Abbott’s early moves to combat the virus, including business, school and childcare closures and a stay-at-home order that expired in May.

The move was applauded by the Texas Medical Association. “There is no question about it, face masks reduce the spread of Covid-19,” said the association’s president, Dr Diana L Fite.

Texas’s order comes as the virus continues to surge around the country, with cases rising significantly in more than 40 states, particularly in the south and west. On Thursday, Georgia added nearly 3,500 new cases, its largest single-day increase yet. Florida, meanwhile, reported 10,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases for the first time.

Overall, the US climbed to an all-time high of more than 50,000 new daily cases on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins figures.

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California Texas

California, Texas, Idaho record daily highs in new COVID-19 cases Monday | TheHill – The Hill

California, Texas and Idaho all recorded their highest daily counts of new COVID-19 cases Monday as southern and western states work to contain their outbreaks.

The two most populous states in the U.S. — California and Texas — continue to see rising case numbers after most states loosened their coronavirus restrictions last month. Both states had broken their records for the highest number of new cases last week.

California documented 5,813 new COVID-19 cases, the highest since the state documented 4,250 new cases on June 17. On Sunday, California confirmed 3,953 new cases and on Saturday, 4,011 new cases, according to the COVID Tracking Project

Texas reached 4,760 new cases within the state on Monday, a rise from the 3,292 and 4,272 counted on Sunday and Saturday, respectively. The Lone Star state also broke its record for the most new cases last week with 4,645 recorded on June 19.

Idaho, on the other hand, experienced a jump on Monday counting 242 new cases, after confirming 19 on Sunday and 135 on Saturday. Its previous record for new daily cases was reached April 2, with 221 new cases documented. 

In total, California has confirmed 178,054 cases, Texas has 114,881 cases and Idaho has 4,006 cases. The states have seen 5,515 deaths, 2,192 deaths and 89 deaths, respectively.

The counties that contain major cities are experiencing the most cases and deaths in each state, including Los Angeles County in California; Harris County, which contains most of Houston, and Dallas County in Texas; and Ada County, which holds Idaho’s capital Boise. 

Several other states have reached their highest daily number of new cases throughout the pandemic over the past few days, including Oklahoma on Sunday. Other states that documented their highest daily counts on Saturday include Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Utah. 

The news of the highest daily increase in new cases comes as top infectious disease expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: Trump refuses to say if he slowed down coronavirus testing | US COVID-19 cases rise, marking ugly contrast with Europe | Trump health officials to testify on continued dangers of coronavirus pandemic Trump health officials to testify on continued dangers of coronavirus pandemic 12 Texas bars temporarily lose alcohol permits for violating coronavirus restrictions MORE has called the recent spikes in cases “disturbing.”

“However, in other areas of the country, we are now seeing a disturbing surge of infections that looks like it’s a combination, but one of the things is an increase in community spread. And that’s something I’m really quite concerned about,” Fauci said. 

The U.S. is documenting about 30,000 new cases per day after previously counting about 20,000 per day before this past weekend. 

The Trump administration has attributed the increased number of cases to the increased testing, although testing has remained relatively stable, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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Florida Texas

Florida and Texas governors blame spike in cases on increased testing – CNN

(CNN)As coronavirus cases spike in Florida and Texas this week, the state’s Republican governors attributed the alarming trends to increased testing, outbreaks in high-risk areas like jails and assisted living facilities, or in Florida’s case, migrant worker communities. They’ve also brushed away pleas from local officials for stronger requirements to wear masks.

The explanations echo the Trump administration’s current positioning on the state of Covid-19 in America: denial and excuses.
At a time when Floridians continue to pack bars and restaurants, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis brushed away questions about his culpability in aggressively reopening his state during a press conference this week. In remarks layered with racial overtones, he blamed the surge in cases, in part, on crowded living conditions in migrant families. He said the state would also take a closer look at the spread of the virus among construction workers and day laborers, who he said are “overwhelmingly Hispanic.”
Pointing to one outbreak at a watermelon farm in Alachua County and another in a migrant community known as Indiantown in Martin County, DeSantis argued that “the close contact” in those households as well as the work environments of farm laborers are “really providing areas for the virus to thrive.”
“Some of these guys — they go to work in a school bus, and they are all just like packed there like sardines, going across like Palm Beach County or some of these other places, and (there’s) all these opportunities to have transmission,” DeSantis said Tuesday, adding that some of the workers are “migratory” and that the state’s health department is alerting Georgia and Alabama about “what may be coming down the pike.”
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott continues to insist there is no reason for alarm because the state’s hospital bed capacity is dramatically better than it was earlier this year when the pandemic first hit.
Abbott, who wore a mask to his press conference and took it off while speaking, has rebuffed a request from nine city mayors that would allow them to require masks in their cities. He says local officials should be using other tools at their disposal — like fining rule-breakers for big gatherings. The Texas governor also said the rise in cases this week was due to a batch of positive tests that all came in on June 10 from Texas prisons and a data error in rural Pecos County.
“As we continue the process of opening up Texas — as we continue to have Texans return to their jobs, so that they are able to earn a paycheck that will help them pay their bills and put food on their tables,” Abbott said, “…we remain laser focused on maintaining abundant hospital capacity.”
Both DeSantis and Abbott have argued they always expected case numbers to rise when testing increased, statements that directly contradict the assertions by epidemiologists that case numbers should go down with greater testing, because theoretically health officials should be able to trace the cases and slow the spread of the virus.

Mixed messaging as coronavirus cases rise in many states

President Donald Trump has set the tone for these Republican governors from the top, intently focusing on ensuring that the economy recovers as the November election looms.
Trump described the virus as “fading away” during an interview this week as he prepares to host a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday that could pack thousands of people into arena with no requirement for participants to wear masks.
Vice President Mike Pence urged governors during a call this week to highlight ramped up testing in their states as a reason coronavirus cases are rising. Pence, who heads the administration’s coronavirus task force, declared on Thursday in Michigan that the nation has proven “that we can safely reopen America.”
“Every single day we are one day closer to putting the coronavirus in the past,” Pence said during remarks at a Michigan steel plant Thursday. “We slowed the spread. We flattened the curve. We cared for the most vulnerable, and we saved lives.”
Those claims by Trump and Pence, however, are not supported by the facts. Twenty-three states saw an increase in new cases between June 10 and 17, according to a CNN analysis of data from John Hopkins University.
Florida and Texas are two of the 10 states experiencing record-high seven-day averages of new coronavirus cases, according to the analysis.
Florida officials are pointing to an “aggressive testing” strategy in their state, where DeSantis noted that health officials have made testing available to every resident of a long-term care facility as well as to the employees who work there.
Florida, which allowed certain businesses to reopen on May 4, announced its highest single-day count Thursday since the pandemic began, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health. The percentage of people testing positive hit a new peak of 10.18% on Tuesday, before falling to 9% on Wednesday, according to the new data from the state health department.
“Certainly as we reopened, we did expect to see an increase — but not like this,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said during an interview on CNN’s “At this Hour” Thursday. (The number of cases reported each day in Pinellas County, where St. Petersburg is located, has risen dramatically since early June).
“There are all kinds of alarm bells that are going off for me,” said Kriseman, a Democrat. “I’m not comfortable with what I see happening in my community,” he said, explaining his decision to require business employees to wear masks if they come face-to-face with customers beginning on Friday. “I think you’re going to see mayors across the state of Florida that are going to take actions in response to these numbers because we’re just not seeing that from our leadership in Tallahassee.”
But DeSantis this week rejected the notion that reopening Florida businesses led to the record numbers of cases, and said he did not think a requirement to wear masks is necessary. Restaurants, he noted, have been open for close to six weeks in some areas: “The idea that that all of a sudden is the reason (for the increase), I’m not sure that’s the case.”
“So no, we’re not shutting down, we’re going to go forward,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to continue to protect the most vulnerable. We’re going to urge, continue to advise, particularly our elderly population to maintain social distancing, avoid crowds.”
The Florida governor noted that from the beginning of the outbreak, he has recommended people wear masks if they are face-to-face with another person, or can’t socially distance. But, he said: “You don’t need to be wearing it if you are going for a jog or you’re on the beach. And so, some of this stuff can get out of hand. I want to be reasonable about it.”
DeSantis noted that the state has “6,400 ventilators that are just sitting idle.”

Texas governor battles mayors over mask requirements

Abbott has focused on Texas’s ability to handle new cases as hospitalizations reached a new record this week with 2,947 coronavirus patients — nearly doubling since Memorial Day (when 1,534 hospitalizations were reported), according to the Texas Department of State Health Services dashboard.
In their letter to Abbott, a group of mayors argued that requiring Texans to wear face coverings “could prove to be the most effective way to prevent the transmission of this disease.”
“Yet many people in many of our cities are still refusing to wear these face coverings even though these coverings are scientifically proven to help prevent the disease from spreading,” the mayors wrote in their letter Tuesday. “If mayors are given the opportunity to require face coverings, we believe our cities will be ready to help reduce the spread of this disease.” The mayors of Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Arlington, Plano and Grand Prairie — a mix of Republicans, Democrats and Independents — signed on to the letter.
But the governor contends local officials asking for more authority have not imposed penalties and enforcement mechanisms currently available to them if Texans break the rules by participating in large gatherings, for example.
“I make clear on a daily basis around the entire state of Texas that wearing a mask is very important, and local officials send that same message,” Abbott said this week. “So all of us have a collective responsibility to educate the public that wearing a mask is the best thing to do. Putting people in jail, however, is the wrong approach.”

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Governor Texas

Texas governor meets with George Floyd’s family, signals support for police reforms | TheHill – The Hill

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) met with George Floyd’s family on Monday when he traveled to Houston for Floyd’s viewing. 

The governor told reporters he was meeting with Floyd’s family privately to express his condolences and give them a flag flown over the Texas Capitol in Floyd’s honor. Abbott also signaled that he would back police reforms after Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody last month.

“Today is a sad day. Ever since his death has been a sad day,” Abbott said.

Abbott said the death of Floyd, a longtime Houston resident who moved to Minneapolis a few years ago, was “the most horrific tragedy I’ve ever personally observed.” The governor said he was committed to working with Floyd’s family “to ensure we never have anything like this ever occur in the state of Texas.”

“George Floyd has not died in vain,” Abbott said. “His life will be a living legacy about the way that America and Texas responds to this tragedy.”

The governor also promised the family that “discussions about the pathway forward” would not be overtaken by politicians and would be led by family members, victims and others “who have suffered because of racism for far too long.”

Abbott said that the Texas Legislature, which will meet again in January 2021, has already begun discussions on addressing police brutality. The governor said some members he has spoken with have cited that better law enforcement training is needed.

“Remember this: Texas has a legacy of success, whether it be the Timothy Cole Act, the Sandra Bland Act and now maybe the George Floyd Act to make sure that we prevent police brutality like this from happening in the future in Texas,” he said. 

Abbott’s comments come as thousands of people commemorated Floyd at his public visitation on Monday. 

The governor is not the only politician to meet with Floyd’s family as presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenThe sad spectacle of Trump’s enablers Democrats seek to tap into fury over George Floyd Police brutality: Let’s get serious — training can’t touch this MORE was also scheduled to meet with his family on Monday.

Protests have broken out across the country, including in Texas, after video surfaced of a former officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes.

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Reports Texas

Texas reports largest single-day jump in coronavirus cases | TheHill – The Hill

Texas reported 1,801 new coronavirus cases Saturday, reportedly marking the state’s largest single-day jump since the start of the coronavirus crisis. 

The Texas Department of State Health Services said 734 of the new cases are from Potter and Randall counties. 

“These counties’ new cases are largely from targeted testing of employees at meat plants in the area. More test results from plants are expected,” it tweeted. 

Notice about today’s #COVID19TX update:

734 of 1,801 new cases reported are from Potter and Randall counties. These counties’ new cases are largely from targeted testing of employees at meat plants in the area. More test results from plants are expected.

— Texas DSHS (@TexasDSHS) May 16, 2020

Texas has reported 46,999 confirmed COVID-19 cases in total

Texas is among the states allowing some nonessential business to reopen with restrictions in place. 

The decision to reopen economies is up to local and state leaders. The White House released guidelines recommending that states and regions see a 14-day decrease in coronavirus cases before lifting restrictions.

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Movie Texas

Some Texas movie theaters reopen with “airport security-style check-in” – CBS News

Some Texas businesses, including restaurants, malls and movie theaters, began to reopen Friday in response to Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to let the state’s stay-at-home order expire. Major theater chains have remained closed, but some smaller theaters have chosen to reopen — with heightened security measures in place. 

EVO Entertainment CEO Mitchell Roberts told Variety that it plans to reopen two of its theaters with “airport security-style check-in” on Monday. He said the company’s “focus is on earning that customer confidence back.”

The open EVO theaters will allow guests to enter through a cordoned area and will be asked if anyone in their household has had flu symptoms in the last two weeks, Roberts told Variety. Guests will also be subject to an infrared temperature screening, and anyone with a temperature over 100.4 degrees will be turned away.

Under an executive order signed by Abbott on April 28, businesses are encouraged to follow the “minimum standard health protocols” recommended by Texas’ Health Department, including social distancing. 

“Individuals are encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings, but no jurisdiction can impose a civil or criminal penalty for failure to wear a face covering,” the order reads. 

Texas theaters are allowed to “operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of any individual theater for any screening,” according to Abbott’s order. If the state sees two weeks of data without any COVID-19 flare-ups, businesses will be allowed to increase that capacity to 50%. 

New data from Austin research firm Kickstand Communications shows that, while people may return to stores, the same may not be true of movie theaters, CBS Austin reports. According to Kickstand, 15% of Austin residents said they plan to immediately return to shopping at standalone retail stores, and 87% said they’ll return within the month. But only 10% said they would immediately return to movie theaters and malls, and just over 60% of Austinites said they are planning to go back within the month.

Santikos Entertainment, a movie theater chain based in San Antonio, has reopened three of its nine locations at 25% capacity, Variety reports. 

For those who are ready to get out of the house… WE’RE BACK! Come visit us and safely enjoy a movie and hot fresh popcorn! 🍿

— Santikos Entertainment (@MySantikos) May 2, 2020

“We do not take these responsibilities lightly,” the company’s CEO said in a message posted to its website. “We have been working diligently on safety protocols that will make Santikos a model, not just for theaters, but for all businesses on how to open responsibly.”

Like EVO, Santikos said it will also ask all customers if they — or anyone they have been in close contact with — has experienced any COVID-19 symptoms within the past 14 days. “If yes, you will not be allowed in the theater and we will reimburse you your ticket,” according to the new guidelines. 

Both companies are offering discounted $5 tickets during the reopening period, spaced seating, and have reconfigured their concessions to reduce person to person contact. “We are confident these daily procedures will provide a safe and enjoyable environment that will allow our community to escape this dreadful reality we’ve been living in,” said Santikos’ CEO. 

As Texas relaxes its regulations, the state has 1,725 people in the hospital due to COVID-19, and 30,522 cases reported, according to the state’s Department of Health. Of the 847 deaths reported statewide as of Saturday, 51 were in Austin’s Travis County, and 48 in San Antonio’s Bexar County. 

Data suggests the state is doing less than half of its ideal projection of testing 40,000 people a day, despite having over 250 testing sites across the state. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told CBS News’ Omar Villafranca that his area needs “about four times as much testing” as they currently have before returning to business.

“Texas — it fights each day to be either dead last or next to last on the amount of testing,” Jenkins said. “To open up, you need to see [the number of cases] go down for two weeks.”

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