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Gov. Greg Abbott—triple vaccinated counting a booster not available to plebes like us until September—is quarantining after testing positive on Tuesday for a breakthrough COVID infection. Will that help him finally see that, like a rock breaks scissors, a virus overpowers politics?
Don’t bet on it. The Lone Star State is where the lieutenant governor last year boasted that citizens would happily throw grandma from the train for the momentary high of telling Dr. Anthony Fauci to go Fauci himself. Gov. Abbott one-upped his number two with a deeply unconservative order this year banning any school board or local government from mandating masks, claiming that face coverings for kids too young to get the vaccine is too high a price to pay for actual schooling.
He’s just not that into doing the right thing, even when it would cost nothing and save lives as the Delta variant is running rampant through his state. Nationwide, more than 121,000 child Covid-19 cases were reported last week, about 99 percent of them due to the Delta variant. Pediatric ICUs are being overrun the way adult ones were last year. This is before the first school bell rings.
It’s a shame but no surprise coming from Abbott, who as the state’s attorney general successfully argued before the Supreme Court that Texas should be able to display the 10 Commandments and fought unsuccessfully as governor against giving benefits to partners in same-sex marriages even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision recognizing them. He’s banned vaccine passports along with mask mandates and reopened Texas even before Trump ordered red states to do so.
One reason for Abbott’s reckless conduct may be a perverse let-them-eat cake attitude. Like Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, he knew he’d get Rolls-Royce treatment should his flagrant flouting of precautions land him in isolation in the governor’s mansion. There he’s blessed with very effective infusions of Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment that run-of-the-mill patients with serious symptoms often struggle to get.
That came a week after Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida, who’s also banned mask mandates and threatened to fine cruise ship companies that demand proof of vaccination, held a press conference last week at a monoclonal antibody center in Orlando, speaking in front of a large sign reading “Early Treatment Saves Lives.”
The day before he tested positive, Abbott had been at an event in Collin County where supporters jammed a meeting room like sardines, delighting in his and their masklessness. “Thank y’all for the enthusiastic reception,” he told the cheering crowd. “Let's keep this energy up and send a message that Texas values are NOT up for grabs in 2022.”
As if those in vaccinated states would want to emulate the less-vaccinated ones like Texas where people have decided masks are a Satanic Democrat plot and, coincidentally, ICUs are well over 90 percent capacity.
The Texas values Abbott talks about mean treating a public health crisis as though it were a personal health decision. That idea, spread by toxic disinformation and demagogic politicians, is embedded so deep in some people that it can’t be dislodged, even as the virus gets its clutches in those least able to protect themselves.
And those Texas values are contagious, spreading to other places where true believers can no longer tell the difference between a face mask and a burqa, or a shot of the vaccine and a shot of heroin. At a San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting this week, demonstrators shrieked “Heil Fauci.” One grabbed the microphone to warn that “Your children and your children’s children will be subjugated,” whatever that means.
Kids don’t seem to mind masks nearly as much as some adults. Just as they have to be taught to hate, kids have to be taught to find masks an unreasonable imposition, like sitting still and learning long division.
It’s not for adults to be dragging kids into our political wars. Redirect that energy into fighting the one against the Delta variant. Abbott isn’t on the kids’ side but their parents surely should be.