Republican Gov. Greg Abbott repeatedly dismissed concerns over the virus to reopen the state's economy. And now that cases are spiking, he's shifting blame to residents.
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is placing blame for his state's new spike in coronavirus cases squarely on the backs of young people, who he said are not following "health safety practices" when it comes to slowing the spread of COVID-19.
"They are not wearing face masks, they're not sanitizing their hands, they're not maintaining social distancing," Abbott said to local cable television network KRGV about Texans between the ages of 20 and 29. "And as a result, they are contracting COVID-19 at a record pace in the state of Texas."
He even banned mayors of cities and towns across Texas from implementing rules that require residents to wear masks — a tool public health experts say can go a long way to slow transmission of the virus.
Now, Texas is one of 21 states seeing cases of the novel coronavirus spike, as well as an increase in hospitalizations that have local officials worried. Hospitalizations for the virus in Texas are up 66% since Memorial Day, according to CNBC.
As cases rise, mayors are begging Abbott to allow them to pass mask regulations to try and stop the virus from getting out of control and overwhelming the health care system.
"We think you would agree that a healthy economy starts with healthy people," the mayors of the major Texas cities of Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Arlington, Plano, and Grand Prairie wrote in a letter to Abbott on Tuesday. "If you do not have plans to mandate face coverings statewide, we ask that you restore the ability for local authorities to enforce the wearing of face coverings in public venues where physical distancing cannot be practiced."
But while Abbott said the spike in cases is "reason for concern," he is standing by his decision to block mayors from requiring masks.
"I make clear on a daily basis around the entire state of Texas that wearing a mask is very important, and local officials send that message," Abbott said, according to the Texas Tribune. "Putting people in jail, however, is the wrong approach for this thing."
Texas Republican leaders have been some of the most vocal in their refusal to implement lockdowns and other social distancing measures that could impact the state economy, but help stop the virus from spiraling out of control in the state.
For example, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick suggested it was fair to ask elderly and other at-risk populations from the virus to die in order to protect the health of the state's economy.
"Let's get back to work. Let's get back to living. Let's be smart about it," Patrick said back in March, when governors were starting to implement lockdowns. "And those of us who are 70-plus, we'll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country."
And as such, Abbott, Patrick, and other Texas Republicans have received a bevy of criticism for eschewing the advice of experts to reopen the state.
Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, called Abbott out for shifting blame onto Texans rather than take personal responsibility.
"Greg Abbott believes in 'individual responsibility' for everyone except when it’s his turn to take some," Castro tweeted Tuesday night. "You opened up bars too early, blocked cities from requiring face masks, and failed to put enough testing and contact tracing in place. Poor leadership."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.