As Texas began battling the second wave of coronavirus last month, Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference warning Texans that no second lockdown is coming.
Now, the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report for the state is recommending Texas do exactly that.
“Despite the severity of this surge and the threat to the hospital systems,” reads the report’s recommendations for Texas, “many state and local governments are not implementing the same mitigation policies that stemmed the tide of the summer surge; that must happen now.”
“Mitigation efforts must increase,” the report continues, “including the implementation of key state and local policies with an additional focus on uniform behavioral change including masking, physical distancing, hand hygiene, no indoor gatherings outside of immediate households, and aggressive testing to find the asymptomatic individuals responsible for the majority of infectious spread.”
The report recommends that Texas combine aggressive testing with an increase in social distancing, “through significant reduction in capacity or closure of public and private indoor spaces, including restaurants and bars.”
At least 100 million Americans, or about a third of the total U.S. population, will need to be immunized to substantially reduce the spread of COVID-19, the report warns, predicting the U.S. will not reach that point until the late spring.
To be clear, local leaders in Texas have attempted to put more stringent measures in place to battle the virus, but the governor — partly pressured by his own party — has worked to undo them.
In November, Abbott cheered on a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that successfully prevented El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego from shutting down nonessential businesses. Abbott previously acted to prevent county mask orders from having any teeth and blocked local health officials from shutting down schools, to name a few examples.
“That’s why we need the state to step in and lead or get out of the way and let us lead,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said last month, summing up the mood among local leaders.
Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org