DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – During a press conference to give an update on Texas’ hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Greg Abbott had some choice words for Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.
For more than a week there has been an upward trend in hospitalizations of coronavirus patients in Texas. The state set a new one-day high Monday for the seventh time in eight days, with officials reporting 2,326 patients hospitalized for the novel coronavirus and 1,254 new cases.
That trend has had some city officials urging residents to be diligent about wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
After the Tuesday press conference, during the question and answer segment, Governor Abbott was asked about letters Judge Jenkins had sent to Austin asking that local governments be allowed to do more to require and compel people to wear face masks.
Abbott replied, “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 for this thing… and that’s exactly what I believe the Dallas County Judge wants to do and that is throw people in jail and that’s wrong.”
While he wasn’t specific about the other means available concerning face mask enforcement the governor went on to say, “Judge Jenkins has had available to him other tools of enforcement and he hasn’t lifted a finger to use those other tools of enforcement. And so he seems to be taking a somewhat two-faced approach as it concerns his pleas for enforcement. He needs to avail himself of the tools that are available to him for enforcement.”
When asked about fines and other punishments Abbott said, “The County Judge, whether it be the County Judge in Dallas or elsewhere, they do have the ability to impose fines — not for face masks — but for other strategies. For example the types of gatherings that people gather at at certain locations, they may not be in compliance with the protocols and hence would be subject to fines. And even though Judge Jenkins or any other local officials has had the authority to impose those fines they haven’t lifted a finger to do so.”
Here’s the statement I released in response to the Governor’s comments today. pic.twitter.com/LKsngYVNgs
— Clay Jenkins (@JudgeClayJ) June 16, 2020
Responding to the governor’s comments, Jenkins released a statement that said, in part, “Let’s be clear about masking. No one could be jailed for not wearing a mask under my or City of Dallas’ orders. Rather, we made requirements out of the Governor’s recommendations only to have his attorney Ken Paxton write us a letter demanding we rescind our efforts and saying they didn’t want the Governor’s recommendations enforced or checked on. I’m simply asking the Governor to lead on the masking requirement the medical experts say is the single most important thing we can do right now to prevent the spread or allow local governments to lead on this important issue.”
Earlier during the press conference Abbott said the state had reached another high in its daily number of coronavirus cases, but promised that anyone hospitalized with the virus would have a bed. “As we gather today we are better prepared to deal with COVID-19 today than we were back in March in April,” he said.
There are currently 51,365 total staffed hospital beds in Texas, with 14,525 hospital beds available. Only 1,626 beds in Intensive Care Units are currently available in the state.
In all, there have been 89,108 cases of the novel coronavirus reported in Texas, with an estimated 28,036 of those cases active and an estimated 59,089 recoveries. Nearly 2,000 people have died in the state as a result of the virus.