There is a strange phenomenon underway, one that will surely generate a lot of inside-out headlines on Politico and be marked on Fox News by its absence. That phenomenon? States like Texas and Florida, where Republican governors have gone out of their way to prevent schools and local governments from requiring vaccines, masks, or tests, have—in a way that absolutely no one could have predicted—become hotbeds of infection.
Right now, most maps of the nation show Florida as the kind of unnaturally colored, heavily-infected appendage that can only be dealt with by amputation. Texas is more mottled, with only most of its many counties glowing at the blood-red maximum of community transmission. Even so, the hospitals in several areas are seeing a surge of new patients. So much so that, on Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that was finally compelled to “take action to mitigate” increasing COVID-19 cases in Texas.
Is Abbott reducing the risk by allowing schools or local governments to institute mask mandates? No. Is he going to require vaccination before people can engage in the kind of activities most likely to spread the diseases? Not at all.
What Abbott is going to do is “utilize staffing agencies” to “provide medical personnel from out-of-state.” In other words, Abbott is going to toss a few “Please come to a state where we won’t let anyone tell you to put on a mask or get a shot” ads onto ZipRecruiter and Indeed. Abbott is also asking hospitals to hold off doing elective surgery while dealing with beds full of dying people, an action hospitals had already taken on their own. There. Crisis averted.
And with that done, Abbott has other things to do. Like go to court. Because as The Washington Post reports, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is seeking a restraining order on the grounds that Abbott’s anti-mandate mandate oversteps the authority of the governor’s office. And Jenkins is not the only one suing Abbott over his pro-virus stance.
For an example of just how different what Republicans are saying about vaccinations and COVID-19 when it comes to other people, and how they’re acting when it comes to putting their own necks on the line, it’s hard to do better than this.
Whether or not Abbott will be able to lure people down to a state where he’s promising that attempts to halt the virus will be fought using the full power of the governor’s office is an open question. What’s certain is that those workers are badly needed. The Harris Health System, which includes Houston, is reviving the worst memories from the worst days of the pandemic by erecting tents to deal with an overflow of patients. The area around Austin has just six open ICU beds for 2.4 million residents.
As ABC News reports, the hospitals in Houston are “like a war zone,” with one of the doctors there reporting on the horrific conditions inside area icus. "If people could see that, if laws allowed us to take cameras and plant them in the ICU. For you to see what I get to see, I'm certain more than 98% of people would say, 'I don't want that to happen to me. I'm going to do something simple like take a vaccine.'"
School districts in both Texas and Florida have already given their anti-masking governors a middle finger of defiance. And it must come as a shock to both men that some people will continue doing the right thing in the face of threats — even financial threats.
In addition to Judge Jenkins, Abbott is being sued by a child advocacy group who notes in their suit that: “One third of all new COVID-19 cases are in the states of Texas and Florida” and “Children are among the most vulnerable to the Delta variant of COVID-19.” They then note that not only are children the victims of Abbott’s actions, but Texas taxpayers will foot the bill for any school districts prosecuted for attempting to protect children. They’ll also be paying for the school closures sure to occur in districts that knuckle under to Abbott’s no-masks rule.
Over 50,000 Texans died from COVID-19 before the delta variant arrived. Hundreds more died over the winter when a purposely fragile power grid left them struggling in the cold and dark. Now Texas’ hospitals are overrun again, the children of Texas are under a dire threat, and Abbott is only biting down harder on his red pill, sticking hard to a position that’s generating things like this report from ABC News.
In a sign that the delta variant is affecting more children on a daily basis, an 11-month-old girl from the Houston area had to be airlifted to Temple because no pediatric hospitals in Houston would accept her as a transfer patient.
An infant in the throes of seizures had to be taken 150 miles away because every available slot in her area was already filled with desperately ill children. Rather than trying to protect those kids, Abbott is focused on protecting orders that endanger those kids.
Texas … is a red-hot mess. Emphasis on red. The question is how much longer the people there are going to keep accepting the idea that sacrificing their children to Greg Abbott’s presidential ambitions is a good idea.