Gov. Greg Abbott on Jenkins' request for more closings: 'He wants to force poverty on people'

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is urging Gov. Greg Abbott to do more to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

However, it’s unlikely Abbott will grant Jenkins’ request any time soon. In an interview with FOX 4, the governor said Judge Jenkins wants to “force poverty” on people.

The governor has already begun scaling back the state's reopening plan. Bars were ordered to close Friday and restaurants have to reduce capacity to 50% starting Monday. But after four straight days of a record-breaking number of cases, Jenkins believes more needs to be done.

Jenkins sent a letter to Gov. Abbott suggesting mandatory masks and physical distancing enforced with fines, another “Stay at Home, Stay Safe” order for 30 days, a 10-person limit on indoor gatherings and closing social venues like gyms, bowling alleys, public pools and theaters. He is also recommending closing restaurant dining rooms.

RELATED: Coronavirus Continued Coverage

Abbott said he does not want to close Texas, but he says he might close other industries beyond bars if cases are traced back to them.     

“He seems to want to continue to force poverty on people by having a stay at home order that will crash all of these people who are now out working earning a paycheck,” Abbott said about Judge Jenkins’ request for another stay-at-home order.

Judge Jenkins said the number of people hospitalized from COVID-19 has doubled this month, which is the best indicator of the wide community spread in Dallas County.

“We need to close those businesses where masks cannot be worn 100 percent of the time,” Jenkins said.

During a live interview on FOX 4 News at 6, the governor said instead of any more statewide shutdown orders, restrictions need to be targeted.

“The proper approach is a balanced measured one based upon data about what may be causing the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

The governor points to Friday’s order that temporarily shut down bars again.

“There were so many reports coming in from counties across the entire state of Texas about people contracting COVID-19 from bar settings,” Abbott said.

Attorney Jason Friedman represents the owners of about 40 bars and clubs in Dallas and other major Texas cities, including Dib’s on Victory, Whippersnapper, High Fives and Stirr.

Together, the bar owners are considering legal action against the state for what Friedman calls “a violation of the 14th Amendment” singling out the bar industry.

“This whole approach is a shotgun approach,” Friedman said. “Are you telling me you can have 500 people at a church and 50 percent at a restaurant, but the bars are shut down completely?”

Governor Abbott said there was a clear reason to take that action.

“There were so many reports coming in from counties across the entire state of Texas about people contracting COVID-19 from bar settings,” he explained.

But Friedman feels like Abbott himself is the one forcing major money losses totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars on Texas bar owners unfairly.

“We think that the government singled these groups out because he believes maybe it’s not his base,” Freidman said.

Friedman doesn’t understand why masks weren’t required before or instead of shutting down businesses.

“If the leader of this state was requiring younger people to wear masks, then they’d wear masks and comply with the laws in the state of Texas,” he said.

But the governor says his medical advisors are constantly looking at the data, and it's possible other select industries may also be shut down.

“Our goal is to make sure these strategies are working, and we won't have to shut down anything else,” Abbott said. “However, if we learn that there is a large number of cases coming from some type of setting, that could require additional measures on our part.”

The governor says masks are now required in two-thirds of the state. He said he's not going to require them everywhere because, as he says, a farmer shouldn't have to wear a mask to milk a cow.

RELATEDInteractive map of Texas COVID-19 cases