Texas, Mississippi Governors Now Fully In The Pocket Of Big Covid
Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared war on public safety Tuesday and announced he was rescinding the state's COVID-19 restrictions effective March 10. This is dumb and reckless, but the Republican governor insists Texans have "mastered the daily habits to avoid getting COVID." Those habits would involve wearing masks and social distancing, but his latest executive order lifts mask mandates and permits businesses to operate at pre-pandemic capacity.
"Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%," he said.
We've been through this: The coronavirus restrictions aren't why Americans have lost jobs and businesses are suffering. The restrictions are why Americans aren't dying in larger numbers. Texas's two Republican senators will most likely vote against President Joe Biden's COVID-19 stimulus that could provide relief until it's safe to return to normal. Instead, Republicans like Abbott are leveraging desperation for their political short-term advantage.
Abbott might have surrendered, but we don’t have to. Join us as we go door to door (masked and socially distanced)… https://t.co/0BmTx0p1sR— Beto O'Rourke (@Beto O'Rourke)1614742211.0
"Removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility and caring for your family members, friends and others in your community," Abbott said. "People and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate."
But towns and cities do need the state telling them how to operate, as "local officials cannot impose jail, fines or other penalties on those who fail to wear a mask or violate any COVID-19 order." Texans are "strongly encouraged" in the latest executive order to wear masks when they can't maintain six feet of social distance, which would logically be almost any business operating at full capacity. However, no jurisdiction can require that people give a damn about others and cover their faces in public. This is not a “pro-life" order.
(In Montana, new Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte immediately dismantled all his Dem predecessor's mask and other mandates but said local and school district orders could stay in place. The lege immediately began work to outlaw local orders, because it was untenable "for businesses" to have to make some of their idiot customers mad.)
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released a statement Tuesday disagreeing with the governor's lunacy. She said that “every time public health measures have been pulled back, we've seen a spike in hospitalizations."
Abbott's decision has little to do with data: The state's seven-day average of confirmed cases has risen from a “low" of 4,212 on February 20 to 7,259 on March 2. Johns Hopkins University reports that as of Monday, 6.57 percent of Texans were fully vaccinated, which is barely a tenth of the number you'd need to even consider talking about herd immunity.
Black and Latino Texans are already dying from the virus at a disproportionate rate and often in the prime of their lives. They are also more likely to work in service industries such as restaurants, retail, and hospitality. Abbott's executive order puts their lives at even greater risk.
That's why it's frustrating when supposed liberals dismiss all of Texas because it's a “red state." Keith Olbermann tweeted, "Why are we wasting vaccinations on Texas if Texas has decided to join the side of the virus?" First of all, that's horrible. Even if 100 percent of Texans voted for Greg Abbott, Ted Cruz, and John Cornyn, they wouldn't deserve to die. Most importantly, Texas is an epicenter of GOP voter suppression, and the significant minority population in most “red states" bears the brunt of sociopathic policies. That's white supremacy in action, as is people in “blue states" dehumanizing anyone who lives in the wrong zip code.
Mississippi GOP Governor Tate Reeves also announced on Tuesday that he's drastically scaling back COVID-19 restrictions. The state's seven-day average has risen from 356 confirmed cases on February 24 to 582 on March 2. (For perspective, Mississippi's population is 2.9 million compared to Texas's 29 million.)
Reeves is replacing all current executive orders with “recommendations" that no one is likely to follow.
Today, I signed what I expect will be one of my last executive orders regarding COVID-19. Our hospitalizations have plummeted, and our case numbers have fallen dramatically as well. In fact, our case numbers have fallen to the point where no county meets the original criteria for a mask mandate.
As he spoke, you almost expected the coronavirus to leap out and swallow him, as everyone looked on in horror.
I repeat: COVID-19 restrictions are why hospitalizations have "plummeted and case numbers have fallen." Remove the restrictions prematurely, especially before enough people are vaccinated, and that will all change for the worse. If you're warm and dry right now, that doesn't mean you should stop wearing clothes or burn down your house.
Not surprisingly, the pandemic has hit Mississippi's Black residents hard, especially in poor, rural communities, and the state has one of the worst racial gaps in vaccination rates in the country. Thirty-eight percent of Mississippians are Black but only 17 percent of those who have received vaccinations are Black.
Republican politicians are letting people die in broad daylight, and when we turn up our noses at “red states," we become their accomplices.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).