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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference at the Texas State Capitol on May 18, 2020 in Austin. (Photo: Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images)

Texas Gov. Abbott Warns Covid-19 Getting 'Out of Control.' Yes, Say Critics, Because You Knowingly 'Unleashed It'

"The out of control spread of Covid-19 in Texas was preventable if Abbott had listened to public health experts. People are becoming sick and many will die because of this absolute failure in leadership."

Jake Johnson

"Too little, too late."

That was the Texas Democratic Party's response Thursday to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's announcement of a temporary pause in the state's reopening process amid a massive rise in Covid-19 infections—a spike he personally predicted in a private call with Republican lawmakers last month that was later leaked.

"The out of control spread of Covid-19 in Texas was preventable if Abbott had listened to public health experts."
—Beto O'Rourke

"Instead of listening to doctors and experts from day one, it took 13 straight days with rising hospitalizations, nearly overrun ICU units, and over 10,000 new cases the last two days for Governor Abbott to finally listen to reason," Abhi Rahman, communications director for the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement. "Abbott's mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic has led Texas into this mess."

Abbott ordered a pause in any future reopening phases but said businesses that opened under earlier phases "can continue to operate at the designated occupancy levels." The governor also signed an executive order temporarily banning elective surgeries in several counties in order to ensure hospital beds are available for the growing number of coronavirus patients.

"The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses," Abbott said in a statement. "This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business. I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of Covid-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and socially distancing from others."

Texas began the process of reopening its economy in early May after Abbott allowed his stay-at-home order to expire on April 30, despite warnings that rushing to open businesses could cause a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Abbott himself acknowledged the risk of a coronavirus spike during a May 1 call with Republican lawmakers.

"The fact of the matter is pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening—whether you want to call it a reopening of businesses or of just a reopening of society—in the aftermath of something like this, it actually will lead to an increase and spread," Abbott said on the call, which leaked to reporters. "It's almost ipso facto."

Texas was one of six U.S. states that reported a record increase in coronavirus cases Wednesday; Texas alone recorded 5,500 new infections. The number of Texans currently hospitalized with the virus—4,300—has more than doubled since the beginning of the month.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN Wednesday that Texas coronavirus models are "on the verge of being apocalyptic" as cases in "big metro areas seem to be rising very quickly."

Hotez said the Lone Star State could see the number of daily Covid-19 cases quadruple by July 4 if urgent action isn't taken to mitigate the spread of the virus.

In response to Abbott's warning Wednesday that the coronavirus crisis could get "completely out of control" in Texas without containment measures, state House candidate Akilah Bacy tweeted that Covid-19 "did not 'spiral out of control.'"

"Greg Abbott unleashed it with a full understanding of the consequences," Bacy said. "Now, we are all dealing with the consequences of his and the Republican Party's poor, selfish, and ineffective leadership."

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke tweeted that "the out of control spread of Covid-19 in Texas was preventable if Abbott had listened to public health experts."

"It was also totally predictable once he refused to," said O'Rourke. "People are becoming sick and many will die because of this absolute failure in leadership."

In a letter to Abbott on Thursday, eight Democratic members of the Texas congressional delegation led by Rep. Vicente Gonzalez demanded that the governor "reinstate public mask mandates, require social distancing protocols, and consider reinstating a stay-at-home order as recommended by healthcare experts in order to protect the people of Texas."

"Governor Abbott was slow to act, and, now, he is slow to stem the spread of this virus," reads the letter. "The governor's approach leaves hospitals across the state at a critical juncture as ICU beds now begin to fill at a rapid pace."

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