Health experts, elected officials, and Democrats in Texas are concerned that Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order lifting the statewide mask mandate and fully opening businesses will set the state back in the fight against COVID-19.
“If you’re interested in knowing what you can get away with, listen to the governor,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said at a press conference. “If you’re interested in knowing what doctors say will keep you, your business, and your family safe, listen to me and the doctors.”
Others called the move a distraction from the recovery efforts and investigation into the power grid failure earlier this month.
“The Governor is wrong to roll back the statewide mask order which is not supported by the medical professionals, science or data,” tweeted Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
“Is the Governor‘s statement today an attempt to deflect from the winter storm systemwide state leadership failure? Yes,” Turner said.
Fort Bend County Judge KP George joked about Abbott ending the “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service’ policy. “It’ll be a great way to distract from the state-led ERCOT and energy failure,” he said.
“At best, this is wishful thinking, that COVID is somehow less dangerous than it was yesterday,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “At worst, it is a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of state oversight of our power grid.”
South Texas state Rep. Terry Canales said Abbott was “diverting everyone’s attention from a catastrophic failure, by creating another catastrophic failure” and said the move would only “magnify and perpetuate the initial failure and the ineptitude that occasioned it.”
Democrats from Texas’ congressional delegation also weighed in echoing those thoughts.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) said the governor’s move would cost lives and went against the advice of health experts.
“Clearly this announcement is a desperate distraction from the Governor’s dereliction of duty during the massive power and water outages, which he has never accepted personal responsibility,” Castro said in a statement. “Now Abbott’s following the example of Ron DeSantis of Florida and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, both auditioning to be the next Donald Trump, and putting politics above the people of Texas.”
Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) said improving the Texas economy should not come at the expense of public health. “This decision is premature and I hope businesses lead by taking the health and safety of other Texans seriously with the implementation of this new executive order next week,” he said.
Rep. Lizzie Fletcher of Houston said the decision to lift the statewide mask mandate was wrong and warned that Houston had recently become the first city in the country to record every major strain of COVID-19. “We are working to bring federal resources to Texas, including two FEMA mass vaccination sites,” Fletcher said. “Governor Abbott’s decision undermines these important efforts to keep our communities safe.”
Photo: Nickolay Romensky/Wikimedia Commons
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