Exclusive — Gov. Greg Abbott on Reopening: ‘Texas Is the Economic Engine of America’

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks to reporters outside of the West Wing of the White House
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Breitbart News on Saturday that he is moving to reopen his state’s economy starting next week because the United States depends on Texas’s success to thrive.

Abbott, in an appearance on Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel, said that Texas is “the economic engine of America” and must reopen now that the coronavirus crisis is in decline. Texas, he noted, is the world’s 10th largest economy on its own.

“As you and your listeners probably know, Texas has always been ranked number one in the United States for creating jobs and for leading in economic development and for gross domestic product. Texas is the economic engine of America,” Abbott said. “For America to get going, Texas has to get going. By God, Texas is getting going now.”

Abbott launched a series of executive orders on Friday this week to begin phasing in the immediate reopening of the Texas economy next week—ahead of schedule. Starting on Monday, the state’s parks will reopen. Then on Wednesday, Texans will be able to begin undergoing elective medical procedures again. On Friday, the state will roll out a “Retail to Go” effort whereby retailers in the state will be allowed to operate the way restaurants have, where consumers can order items online or over the phone and then pick them up at the store or have them delivered to their homes. The following Monday, April 27, the “strike force” Abbott has assembled will deliver more reopening recommendations on how to get the state booming again.

“So what I rolled out yesterday is this massive team making sure Texas is going to take a lead as we open up the state, and Texas is doing business again,” Abbott said. “What the team is doing is they are working from now all the way until April 27th. On April 27th, we will come out with recommendations for certain types of businesses that can open up in strategic, safe ways to make sure we’re not spreading the coronavirus, but also to make sure we’re going to be able to get people going back to work in May. Then, on top of that, we’re not even waiting until May, because I announced several proposals on top of that. One is you have too many doctors and nurses who have been sidelined as a result of an order to try free up hospital rooms and what’s called PPE [personal protective equipment]—the masks and gloves and all that kind of stuff. We wanted to make sure we would be prepared for the worst case scenario in the event we did have a spike in the coronavirus in Texas. Well it turned out all these forecasts that were made about all the dire circumstances and results that could have existed here—like what we saw in New York, like what we saw in New Jersey, like what we saw in some other states—they didn’t happen in Texas. As a result, we have an abundance of hospital rooms, we have an abundance of PPE, we have an abundance of availability for doctors and nurses to go back to work and begin to perform procedures that their patients desperately need. So, allow more surgery to take place. I also opened up our parks, but I did something else, because we know that one sector hit the hardest right now has been the retail sector. There are retail businesses going out of business and we cannot allow that to happen. So what I did is we allowed what’s called ‘Retail to Go.’ Retail to Go works exactly the way restaurants have been working in the state of Texas in this regard: Restaurants are closed but it doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to serve people. What restaurants are able to do is you can place an order with a restaurant and you can go to the restaurant and pick it up or they can deliver it to your home. It’s worked well without spreading the coronavirus, so we want the exact same thing with regard to every retail outlet. Imagine any type of store—a clothing store, a jewelry story, whatever kind of store—we want to make sure that every retail outlet in the state of Texas is able to sell their products. You can order their products online or on the phone, however you want to order it, and then go and just pick it up or have them deliver it to you. This will get so many more retailers employing people again and opening their doors back again and in the future they’re going to be able to start making some money and it will get the products people want into their hands.”

Abbott explained the timeline of events next, beginning with reopening the parks in the state on Monday, then the elective medical procedures and surgeries on Wednesday, then Retail to Go on Friday.

“The first thing that happens is on Monday, the parks reopen on Monday. I would have done it beginning today but we had to get all the parks employees and staff up and running to be able to deal with reopening,” Abbott said. “So, parks open up again on Monday. On the surgery, I had a pre-existing executive order that was set to end on the 21st ,so I will allow that to end on its own terms on the 21st, and on the surgery it will begin on the 22nd when these doctors and nurses are able to begin performing more surgeries. Retail to Go begins next Friday, so six days from now—that will give these retailers the time to figure out the strategies on how to operate but also more importantly to begin advertising in connection with their consumers so they can let their consumers know they are going to be open and try to start—they can begin, if you would, the process of selling to consumers right now so the consumers can start coming up next Friday to start picking up everything they might start buying this weekend.”

Meanwhile, Abbott’s strike force is working on a plan for every element of the Texas economy and will report back to the governor on Monday, April 27, on how to get everything reopened soon.

“We have a strike force that is focused on every business sector that exists in the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “They are getting information from those business sectors about the best strategies those business sectors think that they can use to make sure that they can safely reopen without spreading the coronavirus. Those ideas will be run by a team of doctors who will hone those ideas to make sure that we are going to be able to open those businesses without transmitting the coronavirus. Let me just give you a couple ideas. One that [we] will be looking at is allowing restaurants to begin opening up part of the inside of a restaurant for consumers to come into the restaurant and sit down and dine. Obviously, we can’t have people as close together as they were in the past, but that’s what this next ten days is for, is to figure out what strategies can be used. Another thing I’ve got to tell you that I hear more than anything else is what people want to open up is a hair salon. Hair salons, candidly, is a location where there could be massive transmission of different types of things—it could be a cold, it could be the flu, or it could be the coronavirus. So we’ve got to find a way where these hair and nail and other types of salons can open up in ways where they have customers come in but also in ways where we make sure they do not transmit the coronavirus.”

Abbott explained next what the return to normal looks like. He said that things will not be completely normal again until there is a vaccine in the end, but that along the way the approval of various therapeutic treatments of coronavirus will help the country and Texas adjust to confronting the disease.

“Let’s go to the end game and then work our way back. The end game, when we know everything will be back to normal and we know the coronavirus will be completely behind us, when we will be 100 percent the way we were before the coronavirus, and that’s when an immunization comes out. I can’t be exactly precise about that but the experts say 12 months from now, one or two months more or less,” Abbott said. “It could be next March or next February, or it could be next May. But we know when the immunization comes out, at that point in time everything will be back to normal. But before that, however, over the course of the summertime, there will be what are called therapeutic treatments, therapeutic pharmaceutical drugs that can be taken either by pill or by injection, and there will be different types of drugs for different kinds of illnesses. You could have someone who is gravely ill in a hospital with COVID-19 and they could take an injection or whatever the case may be or an IV that could help them recover, or you could have someone who has a fever and the other symptoms that go along with it but without having to be in a hospital. They could go to the doctor’s office and get a shot or take a pill medication to help them overcome it. So that will be a time maybe in the July to August timeframe where I think from what I hear that there is almost a certainty there will be several therapeutic drugs that will be available, having gone through adequate testing by July. The only thing I can’t predict is how long will it take them to be able to produce these therapeutic drugs on such a massive scale that everyone is going to be able to have access to them.”

The reopening of Texas plan that Abbott is leading beginning right now is, he said, “bridging a divide” until effective treatments are available against the virus so the economy can get moving again and Texans can get back to work.

“So here’s what we’re doing. We’re bridging a divide between here we are in mid-April, to mid-July, a time period where we are waiting for these therapeutic drugs to come out,” Abbott said. “The coronavirus has not left our geography right now and it remains just as transmissible as it was a month ago, so what we have to do in the meantime is we cannot remain on lockdown—we cannot keep our economy closed—we have to begin to open up our economy. What we are doing for the next few months is we are looking for smart, strategic ways we can begin to allow our businesses to open back up and allow people to make money for their livelihoods once again without stoking an expansion of the coronavirus. That goes back to the first part of your question, we can do this in a step-by-step process—gradually opening this sector, gradually opening that sector, and then monitoring what happens to make sure we do contain the coronavirus.”

Abbott also praised President Donald Trump’s plan that the White House rolled out Thursday evening at the Coronavirus Task Force briefing. Abbott said the Texas plan is “somewhat aligned with” the White House plan. In addition, Abbott said that while he encourages other states’ governors to follow Texas’s lead, and he is happy to share best practices for safely reopening their economies with any states who need help, he is not tying Texas to other states like New York’s Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo or California’s Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom are, in regional compacts those Democrats have announced with other nearby states.

“One thing governors do across the nation is we have twice a week phone calls with the president and the vice president and their advisers, so we have received and evaluated the phase-in program that was offered by the president and candidly it’s a pretty-good-looking phase-in program,” Abbott said. “The program that we’ve structured in Texas is somewhat aligned with what the president talks about. The president’s program talks about phase one going into effect in May, so we are a little bit in advance of what the president talks about not waiting until May to open up our economy, but all we did now is crack the door. We will work to open the door in May for phase one. As it concerns with working with other governors, listen—we always work with other governors. But listen, Texas is the 10th-largest economy in the entire world. Texas knows how to do business better than any other state. So we won’t hinge ourselves to any other state that is not as effective as Texas at doing business. We move at a much faster pace in a more effective way. We’re more than happy to share our ideas with any other state, but we’re not going to tie our state to any other state, because we want to get going.”



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