HOUSTON – In recent days, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott commemorated India’s independence anniversary with a crowd in his office. Mixed with hundreds of Republican supporters at a full campaign event. He put up with the brother of famous guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Photographs of the events show that few of those who met with the governor wore masks, nor did Mr Abbott, who has banned local governments from forcing them.
So when Mr. Abbott tested positive for coronavirus this week, the Texans began to question the circumstances that may have led to his infection and efforts to identify those who may have been in close contact with the governor, who was completely vaccinated.
At least ten other incumbent governors, four Democrats and six Republicans, have contracted the virus since the pandemic began, but Mr Abbott’s diagnosis landed amid an intense battle between the governor and his larger cities over measures. of public health in schools and Covid-19 patients repackage hospitals.
In its announcement Tuesday, Mr Abbott’s office said the 63-year-old governor is undergoing a daily test and began receiving treatment with monoclonal antibodies after his positive result. The treatment is used to help prevent hospitalization and is usually reserved for those who have a compromised immune system or other underlying conditions or those over 65 years of age.
Only Mr. Abbott’s age would place him at greater risk of progression to severe Covid-19, said Dr. Jessica Justman, an infectious disease specialist and professor of epidemiology at the University of Mailman’s School of Public Health. Columbia. The fact that Mr Abbott is paralyzed from the waist down (he was injured by a tree that fell in 1984 and uses a wheelchair) adds medical complexity because it increases the risk of other infections, he added.
Mr. Abbott’s aides refused to delve into his condition, except to say that treatment with monoclonal antibodies must be approved by a doctor. The governor received his first dose of vaccine in December.
Nor would his aides provide Mr. Abbott’s calendar or describe his activities for the last few days. Hours before his positive test, however, Mr. Abbott spoke to a crowd of hundreds in a small golfing and retirement community north of Dallas called Heritage Ranch. The governor could be seen in images posted for his campaign talking about a stage and shaking hands with members of the local Republican club.
It was not immediately known what efforts had been made to identify and quarantine those in close contact with the governor. His office forwarded questions to his statement Tuesday, which said all of Mr. Abbott’s close contacts “today” had been notified.
Collin County, where the event took place, does not conduct its own contact tracking, a county spokesman said, based on the state health department, which did not answer a list of questions about his efforts to locate close contacts with Mr. Abbott. .
An image posted Monday on Mr Abbott’s personal Twitter account showed him posing with Jimmie Vaughan, a well-known Texas-based blues rock guitarist whose brother died in 1990. Shortly after Abbott announced his positive test, Vaughan said in a statement that had given negative.
On Friday, the governor met in his office with at least 18 people – “Friends of the American Indian community here in the state of Texas” – to commemorate the anniversary of India’s independence. Only one mask could be seen.
But it was the images of the event in Collin County Monday night that drew the most attention.
That the governor had been at a large event almost entirely unmasked a day before his positive test dramatized the largely two-way experience of the virus in Texas, and underscored the politically charged nature of any response.
Collin County, once reliably conservative, has been hotly contested by Democrats and many Texas political analysts consider it a place for the state. Democratic candidates and activists believed they could turn the county upside down in 2020, but they fell short. Trump won the county by more than four percentage points.
The energy of Republican voters in the county is important to the party, and keeping in touch with its base is important to Mr. Abbott, who faces challenges in the Republican primary next year from several candidates who see him. vulnerable on the right.
Understand the status of vaccine and mask mandates in the US
- Mask rules. In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public places covered within areas with outbreaks, an investment of the guide offered to the May. See where the CDC guidelines would apply and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle for masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- Vaccine rules. . . i bfactories. Private companies are increasingly forcing coronavirus vaccines on employees, with different approaches. These warrants are legally permitted and have been confirmed in judicial recusals.
- University and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities require students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. On August 11, California announced that it would require teachers and public and private school staff to be vaccinated or tested regularly, the first state in the nation to do so. A survey published in August found that many American parents of school-age children oppose mandatory vaccinations for students, but gave more support to mask mandates for students, teachers, and staff members who they do not receive their shots.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems require employees to have a Covid-19 vaccine, citing an increase in the number of cases fed by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within of their labor force.
- New York. On August 3, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that workers and customers should demonstrate vaccination for indoor food, gyms, performances, and other indoor situations, becoming the first city in the United States to require vaccines for a wide range of activities. . City hospital workers must also receive a vaccine or be tested weekly. There are similar rules for New York State employees.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced it would try to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty soldiers “no later than mid-September.” President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees should be vaccinated against coronavirus or undergo periodic testing, social distancing, mask requirements, and restrictions on most travel.
Mr Abbott’s response last year to the coronavirus, measures that included business restrictions and a masked warrant, angered some Republicans and helped spark a revolt within the state party. Allen West, a former Florida congressman, was elevated to the party’s top office last summer and has since left office to challenge Mr. Abbott.
But as coronavirus hospitalizations have risen again in the state, close to last year’s highs, Mr. Abbott has resisted calls for new terms. It has also banned local elected officials from imposing mask or vaccine requirements. After the leaders of several major cities, including Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston, rejected the order and continued with masked warrants, the governor took them to court. The Texas Supreme Court is currently weighing the issue.
Instead of mandates, the governor has urged Texans (whose vaccination rate is below the national average) to be vaccinated voluntarily. As intensive care units fill up more and more, he has called on hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective procedures and has expanded the use of the monoclonal antibody treatment he now receives. The state health department has also asked the federal government for five mortuary trailers to be deployed as needed, although none of the cities or counties had requested them as of Tuesday.
In a brief video message about your positive testAbbott pointed to his own vaccine to explain why he didn’t feel sick. “I received the Covid-19 vaccine and that may be one of the reasons I don’t really feel any symptoms,” he said from a balcony of the governor’s mansion overlooking the State Capitol.
But his treatment and lack of information about it raised questions even among some doctors. “It’s hard to compile it from public information,” said Dr. Peter J. Hotez, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and an expert on vaccines.
The use of monoclonal antibodies before symptoms occur is not uncommon, however, said Dr. Aruna Subramanian, a doctor in infectious diseases at Stanford Medicine. “It’s really meant for people who aren’t in the hospital yet to avoid hospitalization,” he said. “The sooner you get it, the better.”
But, he added, the level of testing and treatment received by Mr Abbott is not typical. “This should be an even bigger reason for people to get vaccinated, put on masks and take precautions,” he said. “Because they won’t get the treatment they’re getting.”