Texas governor COVID-19 response criticized, praised

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told residents last week to stay at home during the COVID-19 outbreak and only preform the most essential tasks, including going to the grocery store or pharmacy.

But because he fell short of issuing an official “stay at home” order like many other governors during the COVID-19 era, Abbott left residents and health care professionals confused about his intent.



“What we really need is 100 percent clarity in what the governor or any political leader should say about this,” Dennis Perrotta, a former Texas State epidemiologist, told the Texas Tribune. “The more sure you are, the clearer you are, the more unrelenting, if you will, you are, more people will believe it’s important to do what they have been asked to do by their political leaders, and the sooner we will be able to get through this.”

Abbott has been targeted by critics as being slow to respond to COVID-19. Political and health care officials point out that by the time Abbott declared a state of emergency over COVID-19 on March 13, 26 states had already made their own emergency declarations.

Mayors, state judges have stepped in to order their own “stay at home” mandates. But allowing local governments to take control over the COVID-19 spread is not effective, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, an El Paso Democrat, said.

“We can’t have a patchwork, we need leadership,” Escobar said.

Meanwhile, both the Texas Hospital Association and the Texas Nurses Association have urged Abbott to issue a strict stay-at-home order.

Such an order from Abbott would “send a clear message about the seriousness of the threat,” and “ultimately save lives,” according to a joint letter from the group.

State Senator Kel Seliger, a West Texas Republican, said Abbott is smart to allow local governments to handle the virus in the best way they see fit. Abbot knows Texas is so huge and diverse, a cookie-cutter approach will not work.

“The governor is trying to take into account all the residents in a very large state with 254 counties,” Seliger said. “He’s also deferred to the large urban areas and local governments to make sure they get all the power and support they need.”

Abbott has also surrounded himself with a group of experts that have kept communication lines open. “He’s made himself and his advisors incredibly accessible. I think he’s done a great job.”