As COVID-19 rates continue to surge and states grapple with renewed waves of infections, Democrats have called for greater action to limit the spread. On Wednesday Rep. Colin Allred (TX-D) took to Twitter to express his concern over the deteriorating state of the public health crisis.
“COVID-19 cases are rising quickly in North Texas and hospitals like @Parkland are running out of beds,” tweeted Allred. “We are in a dire situation and it’s critical we all do our part to stop the spread by wearing masks and only going out for essential activities.”
On New Year’s Eve, two days after Allred’s tweets, Texas reported a record number of hospitalizations for COVID-19. As of Dec. 31, 12,268 Texans are hospitalized for the coronavirus.
Over the course of 2020, the nation’s response to the collective risk of the pandemic was consistently undermined by hyper-partisanship. Conversation surrounding mask-mandates, lockdown policies and economic support continues to be divisive. Behavior patterns of individuals and policy approaches taken by representatives have largely settled along partisan lines. According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, Democrats were more likely to self-report wearing masks than Republicans.
These findings align with the messaging from leaders within the two parties. Democratic leaders have largely emphasized the importance of face masks. President-elect Joe Biden called upon Americans to wear masks for 100 days after his inauguration and promised to issue a standing order for masks in areas under federal authority permits. By contrast, Republican leadership has been more hesitant to mandate masks despite huge surges in case numbers. Other than Georgia and Arizona, all but two of the dozen states without a mask mandate hold a Republican majority. All 12 states have infection rates higher than the national average of according to the CDC. Yet masks continue to be portrayed as infringements upon personal liberty.
“We want to make sure that individual liberty is not infringed upon by government, and hence government cannot require individuals to wear a mask,” stated Governor Greg Abbott (TX-R).’
Public health authorities, including the CDC and World Health Organization have unanimously agreed that masks help slow the spread of Covid-19. Dr Fauci echoed the importance of masks and condemned the politicization of masks. “It should not be a political issue,” he stated. “It is purely a public health issue.”
Abbott has come under fire for his handling of the pandemic in Texas. A report issued by the White House Coronavirus Task Force in November called on the state of Texas and Governor Greg Abbott to do significantly more to slow the spread of COVID-19. It recommended significantly reduced maximum occupancy for public and private indoor spaces and weekly coronavirus testing of teachers, college students, county workers, hospital personnel and others. The report criticized the governor for “[declining] to go further” than masks in indoor spaces and warned that new hospital admissions are surging at “unsustainable levels and statewide mitigation must increase”.
Following the report, the Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa (TX-D) described Abbott’s response as “abysmal” and stated that “Governor Abbott has completely failed managing the coronavirus crisis. Even Trump’s White House is now criticizing Abbott’s failures and lack of action while Texans continue to get sick and die. Texas ranks first in the amount of coronavirus cases and the case numbers are surging while Abbott continues to do nothing. This is dead wrong.”
Allred’s call for masks and limited interactions is the latest plea from Texas leadership to toughen measures against the spread of the pandemic. While the vaccine program officially began on November 14th and aims to reach 100 million people by April, federal health officials acknowledged that the vaccine rollout had a slower-than-expected start and concerns remain over the destruction that lies ahead in the coming months.