Jam-packed, 55-and-older event day before Gov. Abbott COVID-19 diagnosis had no masks, little distancing

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Less than 24 hours before testing positive for COVID-19, the governor attended a packed event north of Dallas with several hundred people. No one wore masks.

Attendees were not asked to show a negative COVID-19 test, have their temperatures taken, or wear a mask to prevent the spread of the virus, according to two people who were there, a KXAN investigation found.

“We shook hands with him and said hello,” said Kirby Wilbur, who attended with his wife. “And then we heard the news today that he apparently tested positive.”

None of the 336 people who were in close proximity to Gov. Greg Abbott – who has fought against mask mandates – were seen wearing masks, nor were they questioned about their vaccination status, Wilbur said.

“My wife, we took a picture of her with him,” he said. “And shook hands with him again.”

The dinner event was organized by the Republican Club at Heritage Ranch, a community for people aged 55 and over. Despite hundreds of seniors in attendance, there were likely no COVID-19 protocols or precautions in place, according to Wilbur and another person who attended the packed party in Collin County Monday night.

Inside the jam-packed room there appeared to be little social distancing as party goers shook hands and snapped selfies with the governor, according to video shared by the campaign and photos shared on social media by the governor’s office.

Wilbur noted the Governor’s talking points included securing the border and balancing the budget. He said that when Gov. Abbott discussed the coronavirus, it was about masks and vaccines being a personal choice.

Less than three hours before announcing his positive test result, the governor tweeted photos of himself next to guitarist Jimmy Vaughan.

“We want to let everyone know, that despite the news today of Governor Abbott’s positive Covid diagnosis, Jimmie & family have tested negative and are doing fine,” Vaughan’s account tweeted Tuesday. “Thanks so very much to all who reached out with concern. We wish the Governor a speedy recovery.”

Gov. Greg Abbott with Kirby Wilbur’s wife at Monday night’s GOP event in Collin County (Kirby Wilbur photo)

Wilbur says he and his wife are both fully vaccinated and not too worried.

“We’ve both been vaccinated, we’re healthy,” he said. “I just had a physical at my doctor’s office and because we’re healthy we weren’t too concerned about it at all. And we’re not really all that concerned about it. Now, I happen to have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow and I’ll be checking with the doctor.”

The event was closed to members of the GOP club and people who bought tickets, Wilbur said.

“The further up the age you get the higher risk you have,” he said. “I have no idea what the vaccination status would have been [for others in attendance], but that’s an individual choice that they made. And I have concern for them.”

Abbott tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

“Governor Abbott is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, in good health, and currently experiencing no symptoms,” his office said in a statement. “Everyone that the Governor has bene in close contact with today has been notified. Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott tested negative.”

The governor is currently in quarantine at the mansion.

“I’m not that concerned,” said Wilbur. “I just think we’re in a position where we’re going to be fine. And then if we’re not, what good was the vaccination?”

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