Former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt says Abbott’s reopening plan is aggressive and risky

Photo does not have a caption

Former Travis County Judge and Senate District 14 candidate Sarah Eckhardt said she questions why Gov. Greg Abbott seemingly shifted from a measured and inclusive plan for Texas’ reopening to one that’s more aggressive and risky.

“Early on, the governor made statements that looked like we were going to have an all-hands-on-deck kind of response, that we would transcend partisanship to do what needed to get done," said Eckhardt, a Democrat, in a live interview Wednesday with The Texas Tribune. "But recently, something has spooked the governor. And he’s begun, making statements and taking actions that are, that divide us. They’re confusing and they’re scaring us.”

Eckhardt said there is reason to be afraid, citing increased infection rates and the pace at which this infection rate is doubling. She said, at this pace, the number of COVID-19 cases “will overrun our hospital capacity if we don’t continue to flatten our curve.”

Abbott, a Republican, has pointed to the continued availability of hospital beds and gradual decline of tests coming back positive as justification for reopening the economy and putting Texans back to work. But last week, the state set new daily records for most cases and deaths. And state testing across the state, though expanding, continues to miss the benchmark of 30,000 tests per day.

It’s important to balance both health and economic recoveries, Eckhardt said. And if she were in Abbott’s position, Eckhardt said she’d rely on the same metrics. Her conclusions, however, would be different, she said.

“The conclusions to be drawn from those facts really aren’t up for debate,” Eckhardt said. “We need to make sure that the policies that we are putting forward as leaders do match the facts on the ground.”

Eckhardt was elected as Travis County’s first female judge in 2015. She resigned from her position to run for the state Legislature, but because of the novel coronavirus, she pushed back her resignation date to help navigate the county through the pandemic. She is now assisting interim Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe. Her last official day in office was May 12.

Leaving her post in county leadership, Eckhardt plans to bring facets of Travis County's emergency responses to the state level, she said.