Texas Republicans May Be Biding Time
for Biden Rescue as Virus Torments GOP
November 15, 2020
The coronavirus is raging out of control across the Lone Star State again with the heavily Republican mid-sized cities and suburbs as the hottest spots and GOP leaders in Austin watching idly while apparently waiting for President-elect Joe Biden to come save the day.
The Department of State Health Services has recorded 31,244 positive tests for COVID-19 in the past three days - the highest count in such a span since the brutal second surge peaked four months ago in mid-July.
West Texas has been content to be the largest of several epicenters in the current outbreak with skyrocket spikes in Tom Green and Taylor counties where San Angelo and Abilene were ranked on Sunday morning by the New York Times among the four U.S. metros where new cases are increasing at the fastest rates.
Sixteen of the 20 major Texas counties where the virus has been on the rise in recent weeks are controlled by the GOP including some where lame duck President Donald Trump actually picked up support en route to defeat at the polls almost two weeks ago.
Biden carried seven of the 10 counties here that have done the best job of playing defense during the current surge that has intensified dramatically since Governor Greg Abbott accelerated the reopening last month with a green light for bars to get back in business again in Republican havens where they had been closed since late June.
Abbott declared at the time that Texans had learned how to keep the transmission of the disease at a minimum by wearing masks in public places and following safety protocols that the state and federal governments have recommended while doing nothing to enforce.
Texas leads the country in cumulative covid cases with almost 1.1 million as the contagion gets worse here and beyond during the second wave that's been as bad so far as experts had predicted for months with urgent warnings that Trump allies like Abbott routinely dismissed as rhetorical overkill.
But Abbott and the Republicans find themselves at a critical fork in the battle against the coronavirus in a state where more than 20,000 people have died from infections in the past nine months.
The governor has refused to resurrect restrictions that conservatives have hammered him for imposing during the spring when he gutted his most important executive order in a futile bid to placate his most stringent critics.
Abbott could be allowing the virus to roam the state without new checks while killing time until Biden takes office in January when he's vowed to have the nation's first serious plan for combating the disease ready to go at the outset of his administration.
The governor could have the major covid decision process on hold until state lawmakers return to Austin for the regular session after complaining for months about Abbott's relegation of them to the sidelines throughout the pandemic.
Or Abbott could be laying low until Trump is gone for good after appearing to tailor the initial Texas game plan to please an ever-vengeful White House that's been in denial and shrugging off a death toll that's climbed to almost 250,000 in the U.S. alone.
Abbott might be smart to defer to the incoming president on a contagion that's been an all but insurmountable challenge for the Republicans up to now.
But Abbott has an opportunity to restore some of the gravitas that four years of Trump has siphoned away by getting tougher on the virus than he has up to now by replacing an unenforceable statewide mask mandate that's a joke in West Texas and will continue to be without the threat of jail.
Texas could be a horror show when the new year arrives without decisive action before Trump's eviction two months from now.