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Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, speaking in 2017 at DFW International Airport, has made it clear that, yes, the county will be using the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as a temporary hospital.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, speaking in 2017 at DFW International Airport, has made it clear that, yes, the county will be using the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as a temporary hospital.
Matthew Martinez

Clay Jenkins and Greg Abbott Are Fighting. Because That’s What We Need Right Now.

The entire fight between Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott should have lasted about five minutes. Once Abbott heard from the federal government that they were afraid Jenkins didn't plan to use the temporary hospital that's being staged at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, he could have called the county judge.

Jenkins would have told him what he told the press yesterday, that the county wants the hospital. Of course it does, it just hasn't had any need for it yet. The convention center, as Dallas County sees it, is for the walking wounded — those who are coronavirus positive but are on their way to recovering from the disease.

All of that could have happened, but none of it did, so we're on day three now of a five-minute story, having seen the two leaders swap letters and news conferences. Everything is seemingly where it was before this all started, except that two of the most influential people in Dallas County residents' precarious lives are mad at one another.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says, "Who, me?"EXPAND
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says, "Who, me?"
Gage Skidmore

Abbott's chief of staff sent Jenkins the use-it-or-lose-it letter Sunday. The judge knocked down the letter's premise Sunday afternoon and responded in kind Monday afternoon.

"The statement in your letter that says that a person representing Dallas County, or I, suggested that we 'would not be using the [KBHCC] for hospital and healthcare use' is completely false. We have accepted the FMS [Federal Medical Station] and we have been working every day since March 23, 2020 to ensure that the physical plant and equipment are in place and fully accept the KBHCC for hospital and healthcare use as has been provided by the federal government and the Texas National Guard," Jenkins wrote.

"Indeed, contrary to your letter’s contentions, I am bringing to the Dallas County Commissioners Court a funding proposal for 'wrap-around' services at its meeting tomorrow, April 7, 2020. These wrap-around resources, such as dietary, security, laboratory, transportation and environmental services to support the operation of the FMS, will be funded by Dallas County and are necessary to address the services required to run such a facility."

Abbott — whose office did not respond to a request to comment for this story — responded to the controversy at a news conference Monday afternoon.

"I checked, and according to my office, we've had zero inquiries or phone calls from the Dallas County judge ever, with regard to COVID-19," Abbott said. "I have hosted multiple telephone town hall conferences for mayors and county judges. There have been, often, at least 1,000 local elected officials on those calls, I don't know whether the county judge was on there or not, but, bottom line, I've never heard from him."

Abbott said he sent a letter, and Jenkins tried to communicate with him through social media.

According to the governor, federal officials told him that if Dallas County wasn't going to use the hospital being installed at the convention center, the personnel and supplies being used to set it up were needed elsewhere. If the feds move the hospital, Abbott said, it will be up to them where it ends up.

"They didn't tell us where they would move it to," Abbott said.

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