TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The majority of Smith County commissioners expressed Tuesday morning that they would move to repeal the stay-at-home order if not for Abbott’s superseding order.
“Let’s get back to work,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Terry Phillips. “I would vote for it today.” He remarked that the leaders of Smith County know what’s better for their community that state politicians in Austin.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Nix concurred, stating he was “very disappointed” with Gov. Abbott and that there are many residents that are set to lose their businesses forever due to the economic impact of the virus.
They both agreed that the court should send a letter to Gov. Abbott, advocating for more local control when the statewide stay-at-home order expires on April 30. Nix said the letter would carry more weight with a “unified court.”
Per state law, even if the court were to rescind its stay-at-home order, Abbott’s would remain in place, essentially making the move worthless.
County Judge Nathaniel Moran said that he extended his initial order for “clarity” purposes so as not to confuse residents. Smith County remains the only East Texas county in triple digits, with 123 cases.
However, 53 of those have met the definition of having recovered from COVID-19. There have also been three deaths from the coronavirus, with two having pre-existing suggestions.
The only potential holdout appeared to be Precinct 4 Commissioner JoAnn Hampton, who stated that social distancing still needed to be taken seriously as the threat has not passed.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Warr was on board for writing the letter, but felt that it would “be a waste of time.”
Moran remained mostly silent during the exchanges, except to say that he had been open to a “responsible restart” before Abbott’s order was issued earlier this month.
The pressure has been mounting in Texas and around the country from conservatives to being re-opening the economy.
Tyler Representative Matt Schaefer (R), vice chairman of the Texas Freedom Caucus, has been one of the most adamant voices in the state in urging Abbott to speed up the re-open process.
The first phase of Abbott’s plan goes into effect this week. State parks were allowed to re-open on Monday as long as visitors wore face masks and kept to groups smaller than five.
On Wednesday, some elective medical procedures will be allowed to resume. Retail stores that have set up a “to-go” service can begin operating on Friday.
Abbott said in a press conference last week that he would announce the next phase on April 27 and a potential third plan later in May.
The suggestion for a letter to Abbott was brought up by Nix after a 45-minute Q&A session with Dr. Jeffrey Levin, the Smith County Health Authority. Levin said that while the curve is flattening from the virus, it “would not go away in a week.”
Moran said that he would draft a letter if the commissioners wished for it and he would send it to them beforehand if they wanted to become co-signers.