Rep. Schaefer calls on governor to reopen business, increase healthcare during pandemic

Rep. Schaefer calls on governor to reopen business, increase healthcare during pandemic
Texas House District 6 encompasses about 160,000 residents in and around the city of Tyler. Rep. Schaefer was first elected to the Texas State House of Representatives back in 2012. (Source: KLTV News Staff)

(KLTV) - Texas House Rep. Matt Schaefer joined 8 other state lawmakers in calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to relax his executive order amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schaefer, the vice-chairman of the Texas Freedom Caucus, sent a joint letter to the governor’s office, calling for a change of course in the state’s virus response.

The request includes asking Abbott to loosen his state-wide executive order, and to allow city and county government to decide restrictions according to local conditions.

“The clear messages we are hearing lead us to this conclusion: Texas must immediately increase healthcare and business activity while maintaining protections for the most vulnerable Texans," the letter reads. "Accordingly, we respectfully ask that you loosen your state-wide executive order to the greatest extent possible while giving local jurisdictions the flexibility to respond to local conditions.”

Schaefer represents Texas House District 6, which covers Tyler and much of southern Smith County. The county currently leads East Texas in COVID-19 cases with 103 cases and 2 deaths.

Abbott held a press conference Friday to announce a small business initiative. Abbott announced Goldman-Sachs will be providing $50 million in loans to small businesses.

The governor also announced a committee was being formed to determine how to safely re-open small businesses around the state.

The full letter from the Texas Freedom Caucus:

Governor Abbott:

Thank you for demonstrating solid and steady leadership during this historic crisis caused by COVID-19, commonly known as the Wuhan virus. Texans have responded with great courage, kindness, and tireless efforts. We constantly monitor the public health situation in our districts and have been listening to our fellow Texans that are struggling to cope with the pandemic. They are demanding a change in how we move forward.

The clear messages we are hearing lead us to this conclusion: Texas must immediately increase healthcare and business activity while maintaining protections for the most vulnerable Texans. Accordingly, we respectfully ask that you loosen your state-wide executive order to the greatest extent possible while giving local jurisdictions the flexibility to respond to local conditions.

The simple truth is that while the risks from the Wuhan virus are credible and serious, the risks from Texans foregoing ordinary healthcare procedures unrelated to the virus, an increase in suicides and domestic abuse, and severe financial stress are also credible and serious. The question is not whether Texans must assume risks during this time; rather, the question is: which is the greater risk? We believe that a decline in public health due to a lack of ordinary healthcare, and the risk of Great Depression-like financial destruction require us to change our current response to the Wuhan virus.

Hospitals in Texas have adequate capacity; they have not been overrun. Hospital staff and medical professionals now have their eyes wide open to the Wuhan virus. While protective equipment supplies remain a concern, prudent conservation measures are in place and restrictions can be reinstated if the need arises. Doctors have told us loud and clear that now is the time to begin providing more of the ordinary healthcare procedures that keep our population healthy. The healthcare systems in our communities are prepared to bend, but not break, should new outbreaks arise.

Business owners in Texas also appreciate the risks from the Wuhan virus. Many businesses that have been deemed “essential” have found ways to mitigate the risk within their stores. Other businesses are prepared to do the same. Marking floors for social distancing, limiting the number of customers, wearing masks, and providing special hours for vulnerable customers are just some of the ways business have adapted. Texas can gradually begin to ramp up, while those with underlying conditions continue to shelter-in-place until the need no longer exists. Regardless, it is time to give more businesses the same opportunities to open for business while mitigating risks.

It is ultimately the individual Texan’s responsibility to keep themselves safe, and also to ensure the safety of those who cannot protect themselves. The public should continue to receive a strong message regarding social distancing, avoiding unnecessary close contact with people, hand washing, wearing masks, cleaning surfaces, and following CDC guidelines. As leaders and government officials, we must do everything we can to ensure the freedoms needed for Texans to thrive are maintained to the highest degree possible in a manner that ensures public health.

We understand that any decision you make will be challenged by some and bring forth a new set of issues to face. We will stay with you in the fight. We are praying daily for you, and all of our leaders to have wisdom and discernment. Your leadership has been strong and steady, and for that we are truly grateful.

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