Ahead of announcement, Gov. Abbott faces pressure to lift COVID-19 restrictions as cases decline

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Governor Greg Abbott is expected to share an update this week on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as some fellow Republicans have called on him to more quickly lift restrictions implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Nearly every post from Abbott’s social media accounts receives a flurry of responses, many from Republicans, to reopen the Texas economy and end the statewide mask mandate. Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican facing re-election in Texas’ 21st Congressional District, has routinely called to “#OpenTexas” on Twitter, as have several Republican state lawmakers.

“The majority of Republicans in Texas are not interested in pretending the coronavirus doesn’t exist, they just weigh the risks, and they weigh the cost of certain kinds of measures differently,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.

Some critics of Texas’ continued response to the pandemic, which Abbott has exclusively led, point to a Centers for Disease Control bulletin in August which said only 6% of COVID-19 fatalities were attributed to patients who didn’t have other health complications.

President Donald Trump shared a tweet that said the CDC “quietly” updated its COVID-19 numbers to admit that only 6% of COVID-19 fatalities were “actually” caused by COVID-19. The tweet was removed by Twitter for being misleading.

Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, said Abbott, and other Republican lawmakers, are caught in a difficult position because of the president’s approach to the pandemic.

“Donald Trump doesn’t have responsibility for conditions on the ground in Texas in the same way that the governor or the legislators do,” Henson said.

Dr. Mark Casanova, a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 task force and the president of the Dallas County Medical Society, has heard repeated references to the “6%” statistic, which he said should not be labeled as a positive.

“It’s actually quite ominous that a full 6% had nothing more contributing to their loss of life than a COVID-19 infection,” Casanova said during an interview with KXAN.

Abbott, who is not on the ballot in November, faces pressure from some in the party that he leads.

Shelley Luther, the Dallas salon owner who defied Abbott’s orders and is now running in the special election for Senate District 30, has been a vocal critic of the state’s response to the pandemic.

“That puts Abbott in a tough position, and it puts some of the legislators in a tough position vis-a-vis Trump versus Abbott and where they locate themselves going into a very tough election,” Henson said.

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