Leaders Push Back Against Governor’s Decision to Reopen Texas for Business
Reopen Texas! Governor Greg Abbott announced plans to remove all Covid-19 restrictions across the state starting March 10. Texas businesses are free to operate at 100% capacity. Dismayed public health experts and hospital leaders are left scratching their hands at this bizarre and dangerous executive order.
One can not help but wonder if the Texas governor is attempting to distract attention from the Texas winter storm disaster. Millions lost water and power due to the collapse of the unregulated state electrical grid.
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Texas has seen 2.67 million Covid-19 cases. We had over 7000 new cases today. Our state ranks 49th in testing and 45th in the number of administered vaccine doses. We have administered 5. 6 million vaccines, and only 6% of 30 million residents have completed the vaccine series.
Covid hospitalizations are decreasing. The seven-day rolling average of positive tests has reduced, but there are many potential threats. Houston became the first county to report all of the major Covid-19 variants in a preprinted study. We are at a potential tipping point.
But just in time for Spring Break, the governor lifted the mask mandate, and all businesses may fully open. Bars and restaurants will open just in time for partygoers to congregate in South Padre Island’s famous beach resorts. The plotline sounds so familiar. We’ve seen this before. South Dakota anyone?
In August, South Dakota hosted the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally where over 460,000 motorcycle enthusiasts gathered for the 10-day party. This superspreader event led to 250,000 cases and spread the virus around the country.
Governor Abbott’s transparent attempt to change the subject from energy incompetence to economic reopening is likely to work. The negative stories of outrageous electrical bills and the 390,000 Texans who still do not have potable drinking water will be buried by reopening Texas news coverage.
It’s happening already. Yesterday, #ihateithere was trending on Twitter as Texans expressed their outrage.
Texas leaders responded to the Governor’s decision. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins encouraged residents to keep their masks on. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price called the move premature and issued a statement saying, “I am calling on Gov. Abbott to open up additional vaccine tier categories so that more people are eligible to get a vaccine if they want one.”
Governor Abbot’s statement makes it clear that businesses “may still limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols at their own discretion.” But he also states that private business decisions are not enforceable, saying “County Judges may not impose jail time for not following COVID-19 orders nor may any penalties be imposed for failing to wear a face mask.”
Businesses are pushing back. The Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars have no plans to change any mitigation strategies. Hospitals, such as Baylor Scott and White, have made clear they have no plans to ease life-saving restrictions. All patients, visitors, and staff will be required to follow CDC guidelines to are to wear a mask.
It is hard to believe that one year into the Covid-19 pandemic we are still talking about wearing a mask. Masks are simply the single easiest way to help protect yourself and others.
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Governor Abbott said, “Today’s announcement does not abandon the state practices that Texans have mastered over the past year.” Texas has had 2.67 million cases. Our hospitals were filled to capacity until two weeks ago. We have very different definitions of the word “mastered.
Texas was making progress. Our vaccine distribution is improving and the state is no longer actively blocking efforts to vaccinate communities of color. President Joe Biden enacted the defense production act. This action allows pharmaceutical giant Merck to help Johnson and Johnson to produce the Janssen vaccine in massive amounts.
There will be enough vaccines for every adult American by the end of May.
Governors in other states will likely watch the Texas experience over the next few weeks. The outcomes are uncertain. Will Texas see cases spike? Will a new Texas variant pop up? Or will our improved vaccine distribution plan be fast enough to allow the decline in Covid cases to continue?
No one knows.
Governor Abbott — You could not have waited two more months?