Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement that he would eliminate mandatory mask rules and “open Texas 100 percent” by March 10 drew fire from Governor Gavin Newsom Tuesday, when he tweeted that the move was “absolutely reckless” and followed up with a series of thinly veiled jabs at the leader of the second-most populous state—after California—while discussing the matter with reporters.
Absolutely reckless. https://t.co/3O5GsbSLpM
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) March 2, 2021
As Politico reports, Newsom did not call out Abbott by name while touring a vaccination site in San Luis Obispo, but his target was pretty clear when he said, “We’re never going to subscribe to the point of view of some other states. There was one large state today that said ‘no masks, everything goes back to normal’ in the midst of a pandemic.”
Newsom went on to mention that Texas has higher test positivity and death rates than California, and that Abbott’s decision could lead to the kind of infection surge that forced California to shut down again for two months over the winter.
“We’re a little more mindful and sober of the potency of these variants and mutations as well, more mindful and sober of the experience we had last summer where we moved forward and ultimately had to revert back and we don’t want to do that ever again,” he warned.
“We still very much believe in the masking policies and we’re not touching them,” Newsom added, urging Californians not to “overly indulge in reverting back to the way things were.”
If it seems like petty sniping from a man who’s facing a steadily mounting recall movement supported by more than a third of California’s registered voters in part for his own handling of the pandemic—including a snafu for the ages—well, he can always say Texas started it.
When record-breaking winter weather crippled the Lone Star State last month, leaving millions without power and causing deaths from exposure and carbon monoxide poisoning, many were reminded of some nasty tweets shared by Texas Republicans last summer when excessive heat caused rolling blackouts throughout parts of California.
Now, the Golden State has the 11th lowest daily new infection rate in the nation, with some areas moving into less restrictive tiers and L.A. planning to have enough vaccines for all LAUSD elementary school teachers by next week.
Texas, meanwhile, has an infection rate double that of California, and Abbott’s decision to party like it’s 2019 has health officials in his own backyard suggesting that his plan is laying the groundwork for disaster.
Upon hearing Abbott’s announcement, Dr. Joseph Varon, chief medical officer at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, immediately warned hospital administrators that they’re going to need more staff and more ventilators.
“I am just concerned that I am going to have a tsunami of new cases,” he said. “I truly hope I am wrong. But unfortunately history seems to repeat itself.”
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