Texas governor finally bans public gatherings after days of criticism

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Greg Abbott spent the past week refusing to order the closure of businesses and schools.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) announced on Thursday that he was finally taking action to ban large gatherings and close schools after insisting for days that the decision should be left up to localities.

"All jurisdictions must work to contain the spread of COVID-19 for at least the next two weeks," he said at a news conference announcing his decision to ban all gatherings of 10 people or more and to close restaurants, bars, gyms, and schools. "We are doing this now today so that we can get back to business as usual more quickly."

The order, set to last at least two weeks, goes into effect Friday at midnight. At least 20 states have beat Texas in taking action to promote social distancing.

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But as recently as Tuesday, Abbott steadfastly refused to take action. "We've seen very swift and very effective standards issued by local authorities based upon consultation with local health authorities, which is the way the structure works in the state of Texas," he told reporters at the time.

"And that is for all local authorities, the most important person they can be working with right now is their local health authority, so they can make the right decision that is best for their community," Abbott said.

Texas has been hammered for one of the worst COVID-19 responses in the country. One report released Wednesday ranked Texas as the third-worst state at fighting the coronavirus' spread.

Some local officials criticized Abbott's inaction, noting the patchwork response meant people from one county could simply gather in the next one.

"If all this accomplishes is that the bars in Dallas County close, and there's three times as many people in the bars in the surrounding counties … we haven't done much to keep our community safe," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Monday.

"We need the state to come in and lay out some parameters. … We have community spread and we have to act, but we need our neighbors alongside us. And so we need the governor to lead on that," Jenkins added.

As of Thursday, Texas has already had 143 documented COVID-19 cases and three deaths.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.