GOP Governor Keeps Fingerprints Off
College Football Fan Limitation Plans
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
September 4, 2020
Governor Greg Abbott hinted this week in a Twitter tease that he's on the verge of jump-starting the Texas coronavirus reopening after the Labor Day weekend despite resistance that he says he expects to encounter from local elected leaders who want the state shut down again.
“I said last month that Texas wouldn’t have any more lockdowns despite demands from mayors and county judges insisting on lockdowns," Abbott said in a shot aimed mostly at Democrats who run most of the state's major cities.
But the Republican governor found officials at the state's major public universities to be far more accommodating when they quietly and informally agreed to limit attendance at football games this fall to 25 percent capacity so he wouldn't have to revise an order that would have allowed twice as many fans than current plans will.
Abbott indicated in the tweet that he plans to elaborate next week on the "next steps" in the COVID-19 response in Texas where the economic revival that the governor had under way during the spring has been in a holding pattern for more than two months this summer.
Abbott noted that the coronavirus numbers in Texas have been improving since July when he issued a statewide mask mandate and increased the authority that cities and counties have in the regulation of large gatherings. The governor had paused the reopening a week before and closed the bars around the state for the second time this year.
Restaurants and other businesses that have been restricted to 50 percent occupancy could be getting the green light to go to 75 percent if not unlimited. Bars could get another chance after blowing their initial opportunity by ignoring state-imposed safety protocols when undercover agents from the state had been on the premises.
After being sharply assailed for months with criticism from the hard right, Abbott has appeared to have some significant cover on the scaling back of fans at college football games in Texas where the University of Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech all plan to restrict stadium capacity to 25 percent during the first month of the season at least. Baylor and TCU will have 25 percent occupancy limits in place as well at home games in the first part of the season.
The second outbreak was clearly under way when Abbott announced the third phase of the reopening in the first week in June. Abbott deemed in an executive order that it would be safe for football to return at 50 percent capacity during a fall season that was still more than three months away.
While that particular edict remains in effect, the major universities helped the governor save some face by deciding independently to only allow one-fourth as many fans as the stadiums would hold at football games in the early stages of the upcoming season.