Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is even rescinding mask mandates throughout the state.
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has announced that he's fully reopening the state of Texas and reversing all mask mandates — despite the fact that most Texans say the pandemic is still a statewide crisis.
At a press conference Tuesday, Abbott broke the news to constituents in Lubbock, Texas, that the state would fully reopen, effective next Wednesday. "Texans have mastered the habits to keep from getting COVID," he told observers, before advising them to continue to take personal cautions to contain the spread.
He cited widespread availability of the vaccine as the reason he felt reopening was safe, noting that 7 million Texans have received the shot to date — less than one-fourth the population of the state. Texas' vaccine shipments and rollout have also been slowed by its recent winter storm crisis that left millions without power and water for days.
Asked how much longer before every Texan is able to be vaccinated, Abbott said, "Within a few months."
Despite Abbott's confidence, most Texans are still alarmed by the spread of COVID-19 in the state. A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows that 85% percent of Texans would still classify the statewide pandemic as a "significant crisis" (53%) or a "serious problem" (32%). Fully half of Texans say they are "extremely afraid" of someone in their life contracting the virus.
James Henson, who helms University of Texas-Austin's Texas Politics Project, said even Texas Republicans are deeply concerned about the virus, telling the Texas Tribune, "The second, bigger surge seems to have had an impact on people's attitudes. In October, there was a trend of Republicans being less concerned, but this does reflect what a hard period the state went through from October to February."
The data also suggests that more Texans are concerned about containing the spread of COVID-19 than about reopening the economy: In fact, 47% of those polled said it was more critical to combat the virus, while 43% said to focus on economic reopening.
The poll's co-director, Daron Shaw, who also teaches government at UT-Austin, told the Tribune that this is a stark departure from the data in other states, which tend to favor reopening the economy. "The economy/COVID number is 2-to-1 in other parts of the country," he said. "Here, it's almost even."
And Texas' COVID-19 case numbers are still looking pretty bad, with the state seeing 8,140 new cases on Monday. New York Times data suggests that these numbers, while lower than November and December's highs, remain comparable to some of last summer's spikes. The state has overall seen 2.66 million cases and 44,078 deaths, according to the Times.
Additionally, Abbott has long been criticized for his pandemic response, and, more recently, for his lack of preparation for Texas' winter storms and botched response to a statewide power crisis.
Much like Abbott, other states' governors are also prematurely axing coronavirus safety restrictions this week, despite health experts warning that they should use more caution.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.