(CBSDFW.COM) – Gov. Greg Abbott joined CBS 11 News at 5 p.m. Tuesday and discussed the case surrounding Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther and his plans for further reopening businesses in Texas.
We’re getting underway this afternoon at 5:00 with a live discussion with Governor Greg Abbott to get an update on where we’re at and where we’re headed. Governor, thank you for joining us this afternoon. We appreciate it. Let me dive right in. We did see the letter late this afternoon that [Attorney] General Paxton wrote to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. In summary he’s saying the Dallas county orders limiting worship services and requiring masks, the letter says those are all unenforceable. Have you heard from judge Jenkins as far as a response, and what’s your plan if he doesn’t change his plan?
Gov. Greg Abbott:
For one, I have not heard from the judge. But also I haven’t seen the letter you’re talking about. But here’s the gist of what I understand, and that is that there’s an attempt to seek alignment between what the state and counties are doing. Just to make sure we’re able to provide clarity for the public so that the public understands the rules they need to abide by.
And since we last talked, there was a case in Dallas where you modified the executive order, and a woman that refused to close her salon that was opened before it should have been, based on your state order, was released from jail after she was given seven days as you well know. So for as much support as she has gotten, at the same time governor, we’ve heard from countless business owners in and around the same area and across North Texas, to be honest, wondering what they’re doing wrong because they feel as though your move last week was a ‘slap in the face.’ That’s the term they’ve used and asked me to share with you this afternoon. It’s a ‘slap in the face’ they say to all those who are complying with the order, trying to be the good people and right people and doing it the way that you’ve asked them to. And she, I mentioned Katie Fairchild is one salon owner, and she and a number of others would like to know where is their support. Can you understand their frustration?
Sure. Perhaps some clarification will make it easier to understand. First, everyone has an obligation to make sure they’re doing their part to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That means that the standards that we issue, or the standards provided by the doctors about what the safest practices are, that people should abide by if they genuinely want to help keep their community safe. Second, what I did in my order was this. I made the determination that putting people behind bars is not the right solution. There are other penalties that exist that don’t involve being put in jail. So we’re in a situation here where, in Dallas County in particular, they’re not putting people in jail who go out and steal things valued at $750 or less. Because the district attorney in Dallas says he’ not going to prosecute them. Also in some counties in Texas, I don’t know if this is the case in Dallas County, they’re saying we shouldn’t be putting people behind bars because there’s a COVID-19 problem behind bars. And yet put this woman behind bars. So you can see the inconsistencies in the criminal justice system in Dallas County. When there are inconsistencies like that, there needs to be predictability and certain. One thing that’s both predictable and certain is to have a standard, and the second is fairness in the system. Victims of a pandemic who are just trying to get their stores up and running again, they may be subject to penalties or regulatory authorities, but I think putting them behind bars is not the right. And hence, that’s why I altered my order, but made it clear it was the policy statewide that putting people in jail is not one of the available solutions to resolve during the course of this pandemic.
Okay, can you tell us tonight where you stand on bars and tattoo shops as well? Because you had asked for suggestions. We did a story a few days ago with a bar owner who sent a rather lengthy list of suggestions for you and worked on that. Took the time to do it. Where are you with bars and tattoo shops right now?
And it may be that person’s suggestions I saw. I did see some good suggestions where basically the standard would be for bars, somewhat similar to what we have in restaurants. Understand this, and it makes a good argument, and that is in restaurants, sometimes there are bars. And in the bars and restaurants they have the same seating requirements that the restaurant has. So if the restaurants are able to have bars open with seating limitations, why should bars not be able to abide by that same standard? So there’s that issue, and then there’s certain other ways that bars can be made safer. Note this, the difference between a bar and a restaurant is that when people go to dine, you have a finite number of people that sit at a table to dine together. At a bar, traditionally, it’s intended to be a mingling site where you have an unlimited number of people coming together and mingling together. Hence it poses a greater possibility of transmission of COVID-19. So all we’re working on is solutions that will be somewhat similar to restaurants to provide bars an opportunity to open up. We continue to work with our doctors on that, who are advising us. Hopefully we’ll have announcement to make soon about bars being able to open.
Okay, and governor, final question based on time here. You just brought up restaurants, so I’d like to ask you, a lot of restaurants are asking us to ask you when we get to [May 18], do you think as of right now they may be able to go to the 50% occupancy, the phase 2 if you will?
So that’s one of the issues. I’m speaking to our medical advisors about tomorrow. To get guidance from them about what they’re seeing and what their advice is. So my only hope is that people in Dallas as well as the other parts of the state will continue to do the distancing practices needed to hold down the spread of COVID-19 so we’ll be able to provide the doctors with really good looking and compelling numbers about how COVID-19 is being contained in Texas.