With hours to go until the state’s stay-at-home order expires and certain businesses reopening with capacity limits, a group of faith and community leaders in Fort Worth are speaking out in opposition.
“Governor Abbott, we are not ready yet,” Pastor William T. Glynn said Thursday.
Pastor Glynn with the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church spoke at a press conference Thursday with about two dozen members of the Faith and Community Leaders United. They’re calling the first phase of Abbott's Open Texas plan “premature”.
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Earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the last day of the state’s stay-at-home order would be Thursday and new executive orders which will allow businesses like restaurants, malls, theaters, and retail stores to open at 25% starting Friday.
Counties with five or fewer COVID-19 cases could reopen at 50% Friday, Abbott said.
Glynn and FCLU members pointed to Tarrant County specifically on Thursday and the lack of consistent declining in confirmed cases. At a briefing before county leaders Tuesday, Tarrant County Public Health director Vinny Taneja said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is trending flat.
“What the federal plan was asking for us to be doing, is they should be consistently going down over the last two weeks. We’re flattening out, we’re not going down,” Taneja said Tuesday, referring to the federal guidance on reopening.
Tarrant County commissioner Roy Brooks was one of the speakers at the Thursday press conference.
“Every disease pathology known to man manifests itself at a disproportionately high rate in communities of color than it does in the community at large,” Commissioner Brooks said. “Until we’re able to have 14 straight days of decline, until we’re able to test people in this community more broadly, more aggressively, and more equitably, we’re not prepared.”
NBC 5 reached out to Gov. Abbott’s office on Thursday regarding the concerns. The administration reiterated Abbott’s orders do not require any business to reopen on Friday, but it gives owners the ability to choose.
Specifically referring to religious services, a joint guidance issued by Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton states “Houses of worship should conduct as many activities as possible remotely”. The guidance also includes minimum health protocols, like designating an areas inside facilities for the at-risk population or offering a service for at-risk population attendees only.
Concerned community leaders Thursday said their message goes one step further.
“They’re trying to give explanation for how you should assemble. We’re giving clarity that you shouldn’t assemble,” Rev. Kyev Tatum said.
Glynn said he hopes Abbott’s decision is the right one.
“But if you’re not right, what will be the consequences for this decision to reopen prematurely? How many more people will be infected with this virus? How many more people will lose their lives?” he questioned.
Regarding testing, Abbott’s office told NBC 5 they were working as fast as possible to ramp up efforts. The goal is to be able to conduct 30,000 tests a day, we’re told.