The dilemma sounded familiar. A renowned, ambitious red-state governor, who had carved out a clear position opposed to mask mandates and other tough steps to stem the spread of the virus, suddenly found himself on the defensive when cases and hospitalizations rose in his state.
First, it was Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Now it is Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who is receiving blistering criticism as I.C.U. beds have shrunk to the single digits in Austin and health officials in San Antonio have labeled its risk level just a notch below urgent. But Mr. Abbott stands solid in his unwillingness to adopt any statewide mandate while he forbids local authorities from doing so in their own areas.
The dread and frustration comes as schools prepare to reopen in the nation’s second most populous state, increasing worries about further transmission of the illness.
“The governor has displayed a callous disrespect for life and safety in violation of obvious medical recommendations and is compromising the safety of our children and the recovery of our economy,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Mr. Abbott said he was focusing on personal responsibility, but she did not address the specifics of the state’s Covid dilemma.
“Governor Abbott has been clear that we must rely on human responsibility, not government mandates,” the statement stated. “Every Texan has a right to choose for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, or get vaccinated.”
The statement also stressed that while all eligible Texans were urged to get vaccinated, the vaccine itself “will always remain optional and never coerced in Texas.”