Opinion: Abbott needs to reinstate stay-at-home orders and make Texans wear masks

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Amira Van Leeuwen, Assistant Opinion Editor

Gov. Greg Abbott scolded Texans in their 20s for ignoring safety precautions when they go out in public, insinuating they are to blame for the rise in COVID-19 cases in the state.

Instead of Abbott pointing fingers at young people, perhaps a more useful way to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is to reinstate stay-at-home orders and enforce strict penalties for those not protecting themselves and others with face masks.

Over 120,000 Texans have tested positive for COVID-19 and over 2,000 have died as a result of the virus. A variety of factors contributed to the alarming rise in virus cases across the state, one of them being the expiration of stay-at-home orders. Abbott allowed those orders to expire.

Phase two of a partial reopening went into effect May 18 and data shows a significant increase in new cases per day since then. Abbott initiated the reopening.

With a daily increase of active cases in counties across the state, one thing is clear⁠—Texas reopened too soon and now people are suffering the consequences. Right-winged politicians were more than eager to get the economy up and running again and ended up causing more harm than good. Now Abbott needs to right his wrongs.

In San Marcos and other cities throughout the state, businesses have temporarily closed in response to COVID-19. This is also partially a result of Abbott’s wrongdoing because he refused to be the leader Texans needed most—one that did not cave to the pressure from the U.S. president and others.

So instead of criticizing “20 somethings” for their irresponsible behavior, Abbott needs to take responsibility for authorizing this rushed return to normalcy. The Abbott administration is clearly incapable of leading Texas during a pandemic.

There is nothing he can do to eliminate the mistakes he already made in putting Texans’ lives at risk unnecessarily. By reinstating stay-at-home orders and requiring face masks in public, he would be preventing any further damage.

Abbott announced an executive order June 3 prohibiting local governments from imposing fines or criminal penalties on people who violate executive or local orders. Local officials began implementing their own orders based on the needs of their counties after a lack of communication from Abbott, who did not initially make it clear how much control local governments had.

After clearing up communication with Abbott, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff issued an executive order June 17 mandating face coverings for the general public and directing businesses to require employees and customers to wear masks, inspiring other Texas leaders to take measures into their own hands.

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra followed suit June 18 requiring face masks in public places effective June 22. Becerra said the ability to do so was always there, but he and others across the state did not know because it was not communicated to them clearly. That failure in communication falls on Abbott.

Abbott once said, “What may be right for places like the large urban areas may not be right at this particular point of time for the more than 200 counties that have zero cases of COVID-19.” But in reality, he does not know what counties need because he is not there on a day-to-day basis; county officials are.

Across the state, some local businesses have not followed recommended health protocols until now. Local governments have been unaware of their ability to require stores and businesses to require masks until Abbott explicitly stated it. And Abbott is to blame for both.

If he had just kept stay-at-home orders in place and made face masks a requirement all along, the confusion could have very well been avoided. The state would likely not be in as bad of a situation as it is now.

The bottom line is there should be no confusion. There is not enough time or resources to be making the number of mistakes Abbott has been making. The lack of clear communication between Abbott and local officials is unacceptable.

Abbott can no longer hide behind excuses or blaming tactics. He needs to require Texas counties to reinstate stay-at-home orders and strictly enforce people to wear masks when they go out. Lives depend on it.

– Amira Van Leeuwen is a journalism sophomore


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