Coronavirus

Jenkins Says Listen to Experts, not Gov. Abbott On COVID-19

Things are looking up when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, but Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says until these are widely available, people need to focus on prevention.
Things are looking up when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, but Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says until these are widely available, people need to focus on prevention. Mikel Galicia
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said everyone should act as if Gov. Greg Abbott followed experts’ advice on COVID-19 and not attend concerts, go to bars or have big family gatherings during the holidays this year.

“We’ve done everything that we can do under the governor’s current orders,” Jenkins said during a virtual update on the virus Monday.

He said Abbott used to be with the doctors when it came to their guidance on masks and business openings, but has since backed down under pressure from protesters seeking looser pandemic restrictions.

Now, Jenkins said, Texas could be doing several things differently to slow the spread that Abbott’s COVID-19 response doesn’t allow.


He said the loopholes allowing bars and concert venues to operate as restaurants could be closed, occupancy levels could be lowered to 50% and schools could be given more flexibility on when they can shut down.

“The governor has said he doesn’t want to do any of those things,” Jenkins said. “The governor refusing to act does not mean we cannot forgo concerts and bars, and cannot make smart decisions ourselves.”

The judge’s update came the same day Abbott released his criteria for the initial distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The first rounds of vaccines are aimed at protecting healthcare staff, frontline workers at a greater risk of catching the virus because of the nature of their jobs and vulnerable populations like nursing home residents.

The criteria also focus on mitigating health inequities due to demographics, poverty, insurance status and geography. Last week, the governor announced that the first FDA-approved COVID-19 treatment is being made available in Texas.

Jenkins said he expects the county to be vaccinating nurses and frontline health workers as early as Dec. 11 or 12, as well as nursing home residents toward the end of the month. The vaccine will take longer to get to the general public, Jenkins says, but the goal is for it to be more widely available in the second quarter of 2021.

He added, however, that “the vaccine isn’t here now, so we still have to make good decisions.” That means not traveling, staying in whenever possible and celebrating this Thanksgiving only with your immediate family.

Jenkins said that during times of crisis, Americans have been asked to make sacrifices. "In world wars, we were asked to forgo getting tires for our cars. We were asked to buy war bonds," he said. "Everyone relied on sacrifices and patriotism to see us through that dark time. Now is the time for patriotism.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn