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Coronavirus Guidance Across Texas Is Not Consistent


Many people in this country are looking to government officials to guide them through the chaos that's been caused by the coronavirus. But what if the guidance isn't the same across the state? Some cities are making their own decisions about closing schools and businesses, like Fort Worth, Texas. This week, the city's mayor, Betsy Price, ordered residents to stay at home until April 3. But Texas Governor Greg Abbott has not issued a similar statewide order. Mayor Price, thanks for being with us.

BETSY PRICE: I'm glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

KING: Why did you decide to make this decision for the residents of Fort Worth?

PRICE: You know, we had issued an order that required a little less than stay at home, and we wanted to be sure we were getting compliance. But the governor on Sunday said he was going to leave it to local officials to try to come together and do this. Patchwork is clearly less than ideal, but we met with the mayors - by phone, for social distancing - of the top seven cities in Texas and the top six counties.

And we all came up with a plan that's very uniform - there are minor tweaks to it within each city and county - and decided that we would issue that on Monday morning or Tuesday morning together. And that covers about 70% of the population of Texas. Those of us that came together, we felt like it was key to helping mitigate this virus, keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed and allow our first responders to not all be quarantined or isolated.

KING: I was going to ask you if you were concerned about mixed messages, but what you're telling me is that you came together with these other mayors in order to prevent mixed messages. That was entirely the point of doing this, everyone together, even though the governor has said, I'm not going to do it myself.

PRICE: That's correct. And the governor really felt like local control was the way to go on this because people know their communities. And the good news is not only did the seven large counties do it but now the small counties that surround us have - most of them have adopted it in one form or another. So it's beginning to cover the metropolitan regions of Texas, which takes up roughly 70% of the population in the state.

KING: Earlier this week, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick talked in an interview about what he's willing to give up in order to get Americans back to work, in order to get businesses back open. Let's listen to what he said.


DAN PATRICK: No one reached out to me and said, as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? And if that's the exchange, I'm all in.

KING: OK, so Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is almost 70 years old. That makes him part of an at-risk demographic. Do you think there are a lot of people in your state who agree with him? You've got 3.6 million senior citizens in Texas, if I'm correct. Do people agree with these orders to shelter in place, or do you have a lot of people like him say, no, we want to get back out there?

PRICE: I think most of them agree with the order to shelter in place. I mean, I'm with Governor Patrick. I turned 70 this year very, very healthy, and most of us are. But what - whose talent would you want lost? And, you know, my children and my grandchildren, last time I looked, would still like to have their Tootsie (ph), and all lives are - (laughter) that's my name - all lives, regardless of age and race, are valued in Fort Worth, and again, look at what you might lose and the talent. We all want America where it is, but we may be a new normal.

KING: Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth, Texas, talking about that state and local responses to the corona outbreak in parts of Texas, thank you so much.

PRICE: Thank you. Appreciate y'all's help. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.