(It broke the record set Monday, when 4,760 people in the state tested positive.)
The state has reported 12 consecutive days of record-high hospitalizations, according to The Texas Tribune.
And on Wednesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said 97% of the intensive care unit beds in the city were now filled, with more than one-quarter occupied by those suffering from the coronavirus.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, sensing that things, uh, aren’t going so well for his state, gave an interview to a local TV outlet Tuesday in which he warned Texans that the coronavirus is actually a thing.
Here’s part of what he said (with thanks to CNN’s Allison Gordon for transcribing!):
“There remain a lot of people in the state of Texas who believe that the spread of COVID-19 is really not a challenge. … First, we want to make sure that everyone reinforces the best, safe practices of wearing a mask, hand sanitizeration, maintaining safe distance. And importantly, because the spread is so rapid right now, there’s never a reason for you to have to leave your home, unless you do need to go out. The safest place for you is at your home.”
Which seems right! The problem is that Abbott’s words seem entirely disconnected from his actions.(This is also true of Republican governors in Arizona and Florida, where coronavirus cases are also spiking.)
Texas was one of the earliest states to reopen following the nationwide coronavirus quarantine in March and April as Abbott let his executive order on quarantining lapse on May 1. That was a week later than Georgia, the first state to reopen, but weeks before many other states. (A full list of when each state reopened is here.)
Earlier this month, Abbott announced that the state was moving into its Phase III –– meaning that “all businesses in Texas will be able to operate at up to 50% capacity, with very limited exceptions.”
On June 12, even as cases in the state were rising, Abbott insisted that there was “no real need to ratchet back the opening of businesses in the state … “because we have so many hospital beds available to anybody who gets ill.”
Then there is Abbott’s hard-to-pin-down stance on mask-wearing.
In late April, as Harris County (Houston) officials were trying to enforce penalties for not wearing a mask, Abbott overruled them. “We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask,” he said. “However, it’s not a mandate. And we make clear that no jurisdiction can impose any type of penalty or fine. My executive order, it supersedes local orders, with regard to any type of fine or penalty for anyone not wearing a mask.”
Then, last week, an Abbott spokeswoman said this: “None of these local officials have lifted a finger to impose penalties and enforcement mechanisms currently available to them. The one time a county judge did, a business owner wound up in jail.” Which would seem to suggest that local officials had the all-clear to impose fines for not wearing masks.
“Most Texans are willing to do whatever it takes to get through the pandemic, but a very loud contingent on the right of the Republican Party has skewered Abbott every time he has laid down new restrictions, and big business is antsy to get everyone back to work. Republican officials have tried to deflect this anger toward city and county officials. By quashing local officials’ mask mandates only to later let them reinstitute mandates anyway in a slightly different form, Abbott is trying to have it many different ways.”
Given the obvious spike in both cases and hospitalizations and the ongoing confusion over his mask order (or not), what Abbott almost certainly should do is pump the brakes on the reopening of the state. Say that they entered Phase III too quickly. Or that people may not have received the message when it comes to how much masks help. Or how transmissible Covid-19 is.
Look, Abbott could say any or all of these things. But the point is he needs to press the “reset” button on his state’s fight against coronavirus. And soon. Whether or not his political base likes it. And whether or not he thinks it makes him look weak or ineffective.
Because you know what’s worse than all of those things put together? The coronavirus rampaging unchecked across one of the most populous states in the country.