If you had to guess one state that, against medical advice, would ditch all the coronavirus safety measures just as the tide is starting to turn—it would be Texas. On Tuesday, right on cue, Texas’ Republican Gov. Greg Abbott did just that, announcing the state’s grand reopening starting next week. “I just announced Texas is OPEN 100%” Abbott tweeted Tuesday. “EVERYTHING.” Masks—no longer required. Bars—fill ’er up. “People and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate,” Abbott reminded reporters knowingly. Ahh, yes, the highly effective free market approach to public safety that cost 500,000 American lives over the last year.
The move to let ’er rip in the second most populous state in the country comes just as many Americans have caught a glimpse of the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. The light, however, is still very much on the horizon, even in Texas, a state where more than 7,500 new daily cases last week contributed to more than 225 deaths a day. Yes, vaccines are making a big difference, but only 7 percent of Texas has been fully vaccinated! Just under 13 percent of the state’s 29 million residents have gotten their first dose. That vaccination rate ranks Texas 48th in the nation! “We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Monday during a White House virus briefing. “I know people are tired, they want to get back to life, to normal, but we’re not there yet.”
Texas is. Of course, Texas’ rush to reopen would be all the more outrageous if most states across the Republican belt from the Southeast through the Midwest to the top of the Mountain West—states snaking from Florida to Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana—weren’t already maskless and their businesses open.
For an added note of seriousness befitting the deadly pandemic, Abbott announced his reopening plan on the anniversary of Texas’ declaration of independence from Mexico—at a Mexican restaurant.