Opinion by Jennifer Rubin
The Post reports: “Local officials in states with surging coronavirus cases issued dire warnings Sunday about the spread of infections, blaming outbreaks in their communities on early reopenings and saying the virus was rapidly outpacing containment efforts.” As bad as the situation in states such as Texas, Florida and Arizona are right now, a true catastrophe may be in store for states if hospitals are overrun and intensive care beds must be rationed.
President Trump deserves a good deal of the blame for playing down the pandemic and goading governors to reopen. However, it was these states’ governors who arrogantly defied expert advice and replete warnings about closing down too late and opening too soon. They ultimately made the decision to follow Trump’s horrendously dangerous advice.
Judge Lina Hidalgo (D) of Harris County, Tex., put the blame squarely on the governor:
In an interview with ABC News’s “This Week,” Hidalgo said she had been stripped of authority to issue stay-at-home orders in Harris County, as she did in the early weeks of the outbreak, after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) decided to move forward with an aggressive reopening plan in the spring. All she could do now was issue “recommendations,” which were nowhere near as effective, she said.
“As long as we’re doing as little as possible and hoping for the best, we’re always going to be chasing this thing, we’re always going to be behind, and the virus will always outrun us,” Hidalgo said. “And so what we need right now is to do what works, which is a stay-home order.”
Let’s not forget that Republican governors around the country in early May were boasting that they had not shut down their states. When it came to ending even spotty stay-at-home orders and forgoing social distancing and mask-wearing mandates, red-state governors reopened as cases were still rising and without comprehensive testing and tracing programs in place.
Abbott was near the front of the line in pushing for businesses that could not possibly maintain social distancing (e.g., tattoo parlors) to reopen. “As early as April, when he announced the state’s plans to reopen businesses in phases, Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledged that doing so would mean more Texans falling ill — leading to, as he left unsaid, more Texans in critical care and more Texans dying,” the Texas Tribune reported in late June.” (The New York Times reported, “Gov. Greg Abbott allowed his stay-at-home order to lapse on April 30, a move that gave Texas, the nation’s second-largest state, one of the shortest such orders in the country.”)
Abbott eventually relented and reversed his premature reopening order, even going so far as to issue a mask mandate. By then, the pandemic was out of control. Some Texans argue he has “blood on his hands,” while #AbbottResign trended on Twitter for a time.
It is much the same story in Arizona. “Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, began gradually reopening businesses in early May. After his stay-at-home order expired May 15, Arizona saw cases soar,” the Times reported. Arizona’s cases predictably spiked; by the end of June, Ducey had to “pause” reopening. On Sunday, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (D) lambasted the governor on ABC News’s “This Week”:
GALLEGO: We opened way too early in Arizona. We were one of the last states to go to stay-at-home and one the first to reemerge.
…We had crowded nightclubs handing out free champagne, no masks. Our 20- to 44-year-olds, which is my own demographic, really led the explosion, and we’ve seen such growth in that area. We’re seeing a lot of people go to large family gatherings and infect their family members.
We are in a crisis related to testing. Was visiting a testing facility this weekend, people waiting still eight hours. … Our governor has preempted us from closing different types of businesses or moving restaurants to take-out only. We really want as many tools as possible.
We had to beg to be able to implement masking orders. We were originally preempted from doing that, but I’m thankful the governor did allow cities to put masking orders in place, which I think will help. If you’ve seen some of the data from communities that had them, masks do slow the spread and can be important. Also to indicate to us that we are still in a crisis and have to take this seriously.
I think when nightclubs were open, it sent the signal that we had, again, defeated covid and, obviously, that is not the case.
ABC’s MARTHA RADDATZ: And many mixed messages coming from all over the place. Is that a problem?
GALLEGO: It is. President Trump was in my community, chose not to wear a mask, and he’s having large events while I am trying to push people that you need to stay at home and that events with more than 10 people are dangerous per the Centers for Disease Control.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a Trump fanboy who dragged his feet after receiving warnings to issue a stay-at-home order and then rushed to reopen despite advice from health experts, blames the media and protesters for the frightful increase in cases. The responsibility is his. As of now, DeSantis has not canceled his invitation for Trump’s Republican convention in Jacksonville. (Cases are soaring in Duval County, as they are around the state.)
The recklessness and incompetence of these governors should outrage not only residents of their own states but Americans everywhere. One thing we have learned is that a runaway pandemic in one or more states imperils all of us. They can hardly claim to be surprised by the predictable result of their arrogant, anti-science approach. Governors who wanted to rev up their economies and chose to ignore warnings about the consequences of their actions are responsible for thousands falling ill and dying. Their economies closed down anyway. Resigning is the least they should do.