COVID Quagmire Deepens for Texas Elected Officials

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It has been yet another rough week for Governor Greg Abbott and his response to the novel coronavirus. Despite boasting that Texas is ready to distribute vaccines within days, news surfaced this week of a report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force imploring Texas to take more serious steps to curb the virus as its continued spread wreaks havoc on the state.

Over the past week, Texas has had a rolling average of over 9,000 new cases each day, with nearly as many active hospitalizations. Most heartbreaking, the virus has claimed an average of 115 lives each day in that time span.

As the state continues to be hit by a worsening pandemic, with new cases for December 1st topping 14,000 and a positivity rate of more than 14%, it is readily apparent that we’re entering the worst phase of this virus in Texas yet, with Texas Republicans ranging from Abbott to our congressional delegation showing little appetite to provide relief for impacted families.

The widening impact of the virus is being felt across the state, but in West Texas the problems are rapidly becoming more acute. In the aftermath of El Paso needing to tap prison labor to help their morgue process deceased COVID patients, there was little sign that Texans were heeding warnings not to travel, with the Texas Tribune reporting yesterday on how dire that situation is becoming in Marfa and the surrounding areas.

It serves as a stark departure from the early months of the pandemic, when the city’s urban core was hardest hit by the pandemic. Rural Texans lack the same access to sophisticated hospital systems that Texans in urban and suburban areas enjoy. COVID patients requiring serious treatment often need to be transported several hundred miles to find a suitable facility in what is both a moral failing as a state and a lasting consequence of the rural hospital closings that have decimated our health care safety net in the less populated counties in East, West and South Texas.

COVID-19 even proved itself to be an equal opportunity irritant for elected officials on both sides of the aisle this week when Austin Mayor Steve Adler made national news when the Austin American Statesman broke the news that Adler himself had hosted a small wedding at a trendy Austin hotel for his daughter before traveling via private accommodation to his family timeshare in Cabo San Lucas in a group of eight.

Adler caught flak for his travel schedule not only because he’s been a strong and outspoken leader on coronavirus response to date, but also because of a video released in early November in which Adler called upon Austinites to stay home and cancel their holiday plans.

The video, as reported by the Statesman, was recorded from the timeshare in Cabo. Adler subsequently said he thought the reporting was unfair before issuing an apology and pledging not to travel for the Christmas holiday. 

With Abbott and other GOP elected officials going so far as to say the state will not institute any further shutdowns or the aggressive steps the state took over the summer to flatten the curve, Texans must again call upon themselves, families and neighbors to make safe and informed decisions to keep themselves and those around them safe. Wearing a mask when around other people, frequently washing your hands and avoiding touching your face are still the easiest and best steps you can take to prevent the spread of the virus.

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

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