On Tuesday, June 16, the state of Texas reported 2,622 new COVID-19 cases in a single day, the highest single-day report just weeks after the re-opening of the state. This morbid milestone reminds us that Texas is far from meeting the Center of Disease Control’s [sic] recommendation for 14 consecutive days of decline before any gradual rollback of the stay-at-home orders begin. In fact, our numbers have continued to rise, leaving Texas with the most coronavirus cases in the nation.
Texas is not only leading the nation in re-opening, it has also taken legal steps to strike down any local stay-at-home orders issued by city or county leadership. ...[M]ayors from nine Texas cities — including Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso — asked Gov. Greg Abbott to restore their ability to set rules on the use of face masks. The governor responded by saying mayors have other tools they can use to slow the spread of the virus.
Some states are taking the coronavirus seriously. Illinois, for example, has made election day a state holiday so schools across the state will be empty of students and teachers during the upcoming presidential primary. The state is also sending mail ballots to more than 5 million residents, including who voted in the 2018 general election, 2019 municipal election, March 2020 primary and anyone who registered to vote or updated their home address since the primary.
When we examine the mail-in-ballot law, our local election authorities do have the power to mail a ballot application to every resident over the age of 65. I’ve had in-depth conversations with [Rains] county leadership on how in-person voting can be safely done. The first response from the county regarding the conduction of the election was that they would provide hand sanitizer and we could wipe all the equipment down.
How brave is it for state leadership to insist that everyday Texans expose themselves and their families to COVID-19 for the sake of the economy, when neither they nor their families must take the same risks? Making the right decisions will lead to the eventual decline in virus transmissions and infections. Making the right decisions will save lives.
During my time in Vietnam, I became responsible for the lives of other servicemen some three months after my arrival. For all my time in Vietnam, and despite the dangerous nature of our work, I never lost a man. Very few others, if any, can claim a similar record. In fact, only one person under my command became injured because he didn’t follow my instructions in the field.
With the crisis amongst us, we have been given a moment to pause and reflect on who we are as a nation and who we are as a people. In my own personal reflection, and weighing my current responsibilities as the county chair of the Democratic party for Rains [County], I find it difficult to ask my neighbors to knowingly endanger their lives by serving as an election judge.
At the time of writing this letter, it appears that the governor of Texas and the attorney general’s office fully intend to block the expansion of vote-by-mail with no considerations of public health and safety. I find it deeply disturbing that the Texas attorney general has fought to prevent the use of vote-by-mail despite the risks to in-person voters.
We have a constitutional right to vote safely and without harm. What’s the [Rains] county’s plan for a sick-free and deathfree election?
We all have been given the opportunity to make a choice. The outcome of that choice is literally a matter of your life or your death.
Emory, Texas (formerly of Sulphur Springs)
• Editor’s note: To read a response to this letter, another letter to the editor was published in the Wednesday, July 1 edition of the News-Telegram.