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Our state’s current patchwork approach of shelter in place orders is not going to get the job done for us. Texans are facing a virus like none we have seen before, so contagious it threatens to impact the life of every Texan.

Allowing one county to shelter in place while others continue life with less restrictions threaten to undermine every shelter in place order. We cannot act like this virus is so contained in our state that it cannot find a way to spread into the counties where local governments are not taking this virus seriously. 

Governor Abbott, we understand these choices are difficult for you, but putting the difficult decision on the local governments is not the right way to handle this. This may be one of the defining moments of leadership in your career—and the Texans of tomorrow need you to make the difficult decision today. Our local governmental leaders face unique political pressure from their local communities, making the decision to shutdown too difficult. If you make the decision today you will spare the local leaders from shouldering these political pressures and give them the cover to implement your orders. While you surely face political pressure of your own not to shutdown, you have the information to support your decisions, information that your local leaders do not have. Governor, you have the information available to support a state shutdown, and you have the time right now to effectively defeat this pandemic in our state—if you act now.

Across the state Texans are sacrificing and now it’s time for our entire state to do our part. If we suppress this virus in the Rio Grande Valley but the surrounding counties of Harris and Dallas County are unable to stem the spread, we know the virus will find its way back into the RGV, and our sacrifices along the border will have been in vein. If we hope to stop the virus, we cannot take a weak willed effort to stop it with holes in our defense. Governor Abbot we have already begun this fight, it’s time to close the rest of the state down and finish the job. 

All week we have seen and heard the sacrifices Texans across our state have been making, students not receiving the graduation ceremonies they earned, small businesses teetering on shutting their doors for good, and families scrambling to pay their rents and mortgages. And while we have partially made responses to combat COVID-19 we have not gone all the way, and if our partial actions are not enough to stop the spread, then all of these other sacrifices will be in vein.

Why does a bartender have to effectively lose their job and scramble for rent money, when a lawyer is allowed to continue going into the office and the courthouse for a civil hearing? Why do the people of Dallas need to have their doors shut while the people in surrounding counties and across the state keep their doors open?

We are passed the wait and see time frame. It’s clear that this virus is in our communities. As we have learned from Italy, by the time it seems like we should be concerned—it’s too late. Over the past few weeks we have watched Italy ravaged because the actions they did take were partial and just a little too late. Then when they did begin to take things seriously, the most severe of measures were not enough to stop the spread. It seems eerily similar to the moderate, delayed, and disjointed response we are implementing in Texas. Of course Texas and Italy are very different places. We have a younger population and our state is far less dense, but it would be devastating to our state if we experience something even close to what the Italians are going through.    

If we don’t stop this virus dead in its tracks it will continue to survive in our communities. All of the sacrifices a majority of Texans are currently incurring may be futile if our partial and delayed responses allow the virus to continue spreading. Our economy has already taken a severe hit, and that will clearly continue. If we continue our moderate response this virus will spread and one of two things will happen, either pressure will mount to a level where you are forced Governor (likely by the time it is too late) or the virus will spread so much that state will practically shutdown as a result of Texans genuinely sheltering for safety after viewing many of our people dying in overwhelmed hospitals.

In short, this state is shutting down regardless, the only question is at what cost? The sooner we actually flatten the curve the sooner we can all safely get back to work.

At this point it is clear, COVID-19 is going to hurt us all and we will all need to make sacrifices, the question you control Governor is how bad it will be on all of us. Mr. Governor please, shut us down today, so we can come together and rebuild tomorrow.   

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows hospital staff at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem donned facemasks and protective clothing to prepare for the arrival of a Chinese woman suspected of having coronavirus infection, January 27, 2020. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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