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Critical Decisions: Which Texas Leaders Call The Shots On COVID-19

From Texas Standard:

Texans are hardly rookies when it comes to the back-and-forth between local government officials and Austin. They’ve seen it countless times during weather emergencies or the legislative session.

But the pandemic elevated these tensions to new heights, and Texans looking for a coordinated response were quickly let down. Leaders of Texas’ major cities acted early to “flatten the curve” only to have the state step in and reverse those decisions. Other times, the state took the lead, and those rules eventually trickled down to local levels.

Texas Standard is documenting those decisions here, in a timeline and interactive map, to illustrate state and local leaders’ responses to this year’s deadly pandemic. It’s an effort to hold leaders accountable, but also to begin to understand whether state or local authority, or a mix of both, is best for managing a widespread public health crisis.

Methodology: Texas Standard asked reporters in 15 cities to name the five most important pandemic-related decisions made in their local area since March. Most reported five, but some responded with fewer. The map is based on “decision ratings”: blue indicates a higher ratio of local decisions; yellow means a higher ratio of state decisions; green indicates a mix of state and local decisions.

This graphic was produced by Caroline Covington, digital producer/reporter for Texas Standard and edited by Terri Langford, with contribution from producers and reporters at NPR affiliates across Texas:

Mitch Borden, Marfa Public Radio, Midland/Odessa

Sam Cedar, KWBU, Waco

Heather Claborn, KACU, Abilene

Chris Connelly, KERA News, Dallas/Fort Worth

Lon Gonzalez, KEDT, Corpus Christi

Angie Haflich, High Plains Public Radio, Amarillo

Mark Haslett, KETR, Northeast Texas

Angela Kocherga, KTEP, El Paso

Reynaldo Leaños Jr., Texas Public Radio, Rio Grande Valley

Audrey McGlinchy, KUT News, Austin

Carlos Morales, Marfa Public Radio

Jen Rice, Houston Public Media

Sarah Self-Walbrick, Texas Tech Public Media, Lubbock

Lauren Terrazas, Texas Public Radio

With help from Julia Wallace at the Laredo Morning Times

Thanks to Wells Dunbar for graphics help

View the project to see how state versus local decision-making is affecting your area.

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Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Caroline Covington