“Today Texas reported: * 0 Covid related deaths–the only time that’s happened since data was tracked in March, 2020,” Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted on Sunday night. “* the fewest Covid cases in over 13 months * the lowest 7-day Covid positivity rate ever * the lowest Covid hospitalizations in 11 months. Thanks, Texans!”
Perhaps most surprised by the Lone Star State’s dramatic drop in COVID cases and deaths are his critics who slammed Abbott’s decision back in March to fully reopen his state.
His critics went far beyond Democrats, who surely made themselves vocal in opposition to Texas’ reopening with President Biden calling it “Neanderthal thinking” and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke slamming the “death warrant for Texas” while accusing the governor of “killing the people of Texas.”
Perhaps the biggest pushback Abbott faced was from the media.
The Washington Post editorial board declared on March 2 that the governor “is endangering the health of Texas and beyond.”
“While everyone is eager for a break from restrictions, Mr. Abbott’s decision is premature and reckless,” the Post wrote at the time. “The governor’s decision may cheer those feeling rebellious, fatigued and impatient with the year-long pandemic restrictions. But the result of opening too soon will be viral spread, and more suffering.”
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin agreed, tweeting “Abbott is going to kill more Texans” while sharing her piece that called on the Biden administration to pull federal relief for the state in response to the early reopening.
MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle similarly wondered on-air if states like Texas should “face consequences” for not following the CDC, asking “Should they get access to, let’s say, emergency federal help if they end up with a spike in cases or hospitalizations down the road?”
Ruhle’s colleague Joy Reid pushed a racial component, suggesting minorities don’t matter in states like Texas.
“There is a term called ‘necropolitics,’ which is essentially the politics of who gets to live and who gets to die, and these states, what they have in common is that they have structures which say that Black and Brown lives matter less,” Reid explained during a panel discussion.
“And so all that matters is that Black and Brown people get their behinds into the factory and make me my steaks, make me my stuff, get there and do my nails, work, get back to work now and do the things that I, the comfortable affluent person, need. Isn’t that what we’re seeing in states like Texas?” she continued.
MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson nodded in agreement, before adding, “‘The Hunger Games’ would be more humane” for minorities.
MSNBC contributor Dr. Kavita Patel wrote an op-ed claiming Abbott “has left Texans to fight Covid alone” and insisting, “It should not be left to regular Texans to provide their own basic protection, but Abbott has left us with no other choice.”
Vanity Fair went bold with its headline, “Republican Governors Celebrate COVID Anniversary With Bold Plan to Kill Another 500,000 Americans.”
“Texas’s and Mississippi’s elected officials are duking it out for the country’s biggest dumbass,” Vanity Fair writer Bess Levin quipped.
Abbott received a barrage of attacks from CNN.
CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza called Abbott’s order lifting the mask mandate a “head-scratching, anti-science decision.”
“Abbott’s move seems entirely motivated by politics rather than public health,” Cillizza insisted on March 3. “Doctors and public health experts continue to warn that letting down our guard — and our masks — at this point is a major mistake.”
Cillizza explained, “Abbott has his eye on two races — his 2022 reelection campaign and the possibility of a bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. And he knows that the key to victory in both is to make sure the Republican base, which remains very loyal to former President Donald Trump, knows and like him. Of late, with the pandemic wearing on, the base has begun to chafe at Abbott somewhat — convinced, by the former President, that mask-wearing is some sort of assault on their freedom rather than simply a public health measure.”
That same day, CNN senior politics writer Zachary Wolf took a page from President Biden’s playbook, asking, “What’s behind Texas governor’s ‘Neanderthal thinking’?”
“The truth may be more political maneuvering than Neanderthal thinking, which is more sinister. There are smart people in Texas who know better. The governor just didn’t talk to them,” Wolf wrote.
A separate op-ed published by CNN the next day called Abbott’s decision “appalling.”
“Abbott’s announcement may have been cheered by some in the business community, but make no mistake: those of us who want to see a thriving economic climate are far from universally on his side,” Ally Energy CEO Katie Mehnert wrote. “Instead, we recognize that to save lives and build a strong long-term future we have to put science first. And the science does not back up his decision.”