Gov. Abbott must close the leadership gap on COVID-19 reponse

by | Jun 23, 2020 | Coronavirus, Policy

When nothing you do will make anyone happy you might as well do what’s right, right? 

When Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference Monday to address the increasing hospitalizations and rising cases of COVID-19 there was hope for something more than an acknowledgment of the obvious. The problem for Abbott is that he has floundered between catering to his base who believes CDC guidelines are a threat to personal freedoms and actual health experts and the local leaders who are trying to keep our economy afloat while slowing the spread of the virus. 

Now with 11 consecutive days of record increases in confirmed cases, Abbott says the rapid pace of spreading is “unacceptable.” What’s the difference between when he ended the stay at home order and now? He says in May cases were going down, but in June they are going up. Of course we knew this was inevitable, and so did the governor who was caught on tape saying as much to legislators. When we needed decisive leadership the most, our governor wasted valuable time with ambiguous orders to local officials on their ability to enforce social distancing and the wearing of masks. 

Abbott continues to bow to pressure from the far right even as they personally insult him over his physical disability. He’s pointed a finger at young people, and testing for a spike in cases but he is solely responsible for the mixed messaging and the ensuing confusion turning deadly. In fact, he provided no new direction at his press event and the only example of enforcement he gave was that TABC would be pulling the licenses of bars that were over the allowed capacity. And speaking of overcapacity, Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston has now opened up its ICU to adult COVID-19 patients due to the surge in cases.

It was the governor’s choice to begin opening the economy before it was recommended and without the requirement to wear facemasks. He still refuses to require masks even as he emplores Texans to wear them. We should be clear about who has a problem wearing masks — people who voted for Donald Trump and Greg Abbott. 

Abbott wants to play the “personal responsibility” card and allow each person to make their own decision to keep everyone around them safe but he misses the broader point of his own responsibility as the state’s executive. The choice he has made has led to serious consequences for thousands of Texans, their families and their businesses. Abbott even recognized that Texans wearing masks is the biggest factor in “keeping Texas open.” Let’s remember Texas was one of the last states to shut down and one of the first to begin reopening. And when Abbott assembled his task force it was a who’s who of donors, business interests, and lobbyists. Not a single local elected official. 

Now we must rely on each other to do what’s right and hope the governor finds the will to do the same. This is something I hope Texans will remember come November — if we keep electing politicians on a platform of weakening the government, we can’t be surprised when they actually deliver.

Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

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Joe Deshotel is originally from Beaumont, Texas, but a combination of live music, politics, and natural beauty brought him to Austin in 2010. He has over a decade of experience in public policy that covers federal, state, and local government and has worked on a number of successful election campaigns. He continues to consult on Democratic campaigns and serves as the Chair of Austin’s Community Development Commission which advocates for affordable housing and solutions for homelessness.

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