Greg Abbott is a hypocrite. Pausing Texas' reopening won't fix the damage he's done
Texas Governor Greg Abbott holds COVID-19 test vials. (Tom Pennington / Getty Images)
Texas is one of the most affected countries in the country for COVID-19. On Tuesday, the state broke its record high of 5,000 new infections in a single day. But as we know, everything is bigger in Texas - the next day the state struggled with 6,200 new infections. It is a disaster for which Governor Greg Abbott must take full responsibility.
His decision to "temporarily halt the reopening from Thursday morning" is meaningless. Texas is already in the final stages of reopening, and Abbott doesn't want to reverse the fact that all businesses have been at 50% capacity since early June.
Despite this mess, Abbott continued to point his fingers at anyone other than himself - accusing young people of not disinfecting their hands enough and complaining to KBTX that "there are still many people in the state of Texas who believe they are." Spreading COVID-19 is really not a challenge. “Abbott's revelation that" there is never a reason for you to leave home unless you have to go out "is not a sign of remorse. Rather, it is his attempt to distract people from his mismanagement of the coronavirus response in Texas and his increase in personal liberties at the expense of public health.
Dealing with a pandemic requires a concerted effort. On the contrary, Abbott has adopted a hyperindividual, "everyone for himself" mentality that has undermined social cooperation. For example, by April 2, weeks after the pandemic, his failure to issue an order at home undermined the nationwide coordination by relaying the coronavirus response to local executives who sent mixed messages and offered a patchwork response, which nullified all real efforts curfew.
For example, Dallas County quickly took action. By March 12, district judge Clay Jenkins had restricted large meetings and ordered bars and restaurants to be closed (with the exception of takeaway orders). In neighboring Collin County, however, the County Judge Clay Hill decided to persevere with an order and keep the door open so people could cross the county border and gather there instead.
It was an angry time. As someone who quarantined in Texas with vulnerable people in need of medical care, I sat watching my county commissioner brag of overcrowded parking spaces on his official Facebook page. "Particularly excited about the entire Home Depot," he wrote, expressing how happy he was that our district judge "didn't copy the Dallas order." It was a subtle reminder that for some, the desire to stroll into a home depot is more important than someone else's need for hospitals to be free of COVID-19 cases so that elective surgery can resume.
Because of Abbott's intransigence, Texas was one of the last states to issue an order to stay at home. He then stupidly allowed the same job to expire just a few weeks later, on April 30th. Texas has since continued its rapid urge to reopen despite the surge in hospital cases and intensive care units approaching capacity. We should not ignore the fact that local businesses have been hit hard by pandemic restrictions and continue to have problems - but a second surge in Texas, not least because of the rush to reopen, will hurt these businesses even more in the long run, let alone of the avoidable loss of life that has already occurred.
More recently, Abbott has refused to make masks mandatory nationwide - a move that could help companies stay open by slowing the spread of COVID-19. He even went so far as to enact an executive ordinance that prohibited local governments from punishing those who refused to wear masks even as city and county officials asked for it (a problem that was resolved but not by Abbott) .
Personal freedom is important. However, what we saw in Texas’s response to the corona virus is the damage that hyperindividualism can and has done to this country. We have now reached a point where, despite its proven effectiveness, it is too much to carry a small piece of fabric on our faces to protect other people from a life-threatening virus. Finally, there is a special symbolism in the fact that masks are worn to protect others rather than to protect yourself.
Hyperindividualism makes people believe that their life is separate from that around them. In reality, our freedom and livelihood are intertwined. Being part of a society means that there are times when we should make sacrifices for the good of the whole, despite our individual right not to do so. It's a point Abbott seems to recognize when he shames Texans who "don't take COVID-19 seriously" - but not one who has characterized his coronavirus response disaster.
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