It is telling that the coronavirus press conference held by Greg Abbott earlier today was staged in Arlington where the second Texas victim of the virus died just yesterday. Abbott’s event was the epitome of after-the-fact action, and the announcements he made can fairly be described as very little, very late.
The commitment of state actions discussed at Abbott’s press event all involved resources and assistance that were needed and could have been made available weeks ago. None of the information directed to the public was new or materially different from that already provided by local officials on their own. Comments on expanding availability of COVID-19 testing were vague and noncommittal. The advice to wash hands thoroughly and regularly was good, but certainly not new.
And, Abbott again failed to assert leadership to set a statewide standard for public gatherings or rules for restaurants and other businesses where risk of passing the virus is a concern. He left in place the current, patchwork standards that differ from county-to-county and city-to-city.
While precious time passed, Trump blustered, Abbott dithered
National news reported the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus in early January. Over the next six weeks, the virus spread world-wide, with many cases diagnosed in the United States. Experts in infectious diseases recognized the threat and called for a national response.
Instead of taking action to prepare our healthcare system for widespread testing and treatment, Donald Trump denied the facts and lied to the public, calling the virus a “hoax.”
Like Trump, Greg Abbott took no substantive action to address what was clearly a building crisis. With Trump, it’s bluster and B.S. With Abbott, it’s motion without action.
A review of Abbott’s Twitter feed and public statements show he sat tight until January 26 and then held meetings with some State officials. A self-serving press statement talks up the meeting and includes tips on handwashing, but it mentions no constructive action to prepare for a pandemic.
Abbott declared a “state of disaster” in Texas only five days ago, long after the coronavirus had become a full-blown pandemic.
Today, Abbott displayed his passive-aggressive nature even more clearly when said he will wait until Thursday to make an announcement on gatherings and closures until he talks with local officials – obviously looking to push responsibility and any blame onto them.
Abbott left real leadership to the local officials he regularly undermines
In Dallas, County Judge Clay Jenkins and Mayor Eric Johnson risked criticism and political fallout by restricting large public gatherings and ordering limits on service from restaurants and similar businesses. Judge Lina Hidalgo, Mayor Sylvester Turner and other local leaders have done the same.
During his tenure as Governor, Abbott has regularly criticized local officials and asserted state authority intended to undermine local control.
Now, with a crisis threatening the lives of thousands of Texans and the livelihoods of millions more, Greg Abbott is happy to lay low and let local officials provide the courage and resolve he can’t seem to muster.