There are sayings along the Texas Gulf Coast – “We have a winter season – we just have it in a single week.” And “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. It’ll change.” Witness the temperatures just before, during, and since Winter Storm Uri: 27, 47, 72, 81.
On the other hand, one thing that’s consistent in Texas is the incompetence in state politics. Witness how Gov. Greg Abbott handled the hobbled power grid, statewide outages, water issues, numerous deaths, and costly disaster caused by Uri. He blamed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who raised close to $5 million in relief funds a week after the storm while Abbott was blathering about wind turbines and a non-existent Green New Deal. And then there’s ted cruz [sic], the recreant senator who abandoned his constituents and shamelessly blamed his daughters for his selfish indifference.
Now Abbott has suspended mask mandates and opened the state 100% as of Wednesday, March 10th. Critics – and Texans – say this is a ploy to deflect attention from Abbott’s mishandling of the winter storm. To further support this conclusion, Abbott blamed Joe Biden’s immigration policy for unleashing countless COVID-infected illegal migrants into the state. Common sense dictates that this argument alone would inspire Abbott to maintain all COVID protocols, let alone the 6410 new cases of COVID in Texas, the 256 newly reported deaths, and the more than 44,000 deaths since last year. But common sense left the State House a long time ago.
Remember, this is the state that allows you to walk into a supermarket with your child on one hip and a revolver on the other, but – God forbid – you wear a mask to protect said child, yourself, your loved ones, and your community. This the state that periodically threatens to secede from the Union in order to preserve its ethos of rugged individualism from an ever-intrusive federal government and its mask-wearing, social-distancing, hand-washing policies.
On March 1st The Houston Chronicle reported that “Houston is the nation’s first city to record every major variant of the novel coronavirus – many of which are more contagious than the original strain. “The numbers of the major variants we have identified in our large sequencing study are disquieting,” said Dr. James Musser, who leads the team of experts at Houston Methodist Hospital behind the new finding. “The genome data indicate that these important variants are now geographically widely distributed in the Houston metropolitan region and could increase the transmission of the virus or the severity of infection.”
Abbott made his announcement the next day. Does anyone in Austin read a newspaper? Clearly, they don’t listen to the science.
Joe Biden called the policy change ‘Neanderthal thinking’, and Republicans came out of the woodwork to condemn his language. This after years of deafening silence and, thus, tacit approval of crude, lewd, and rude ad hominem assaults from donald trump [sic]. Marsha Blackburn, Republican senator from Tennessee, who does not believe in evolution, even defended Neanderthals, attempting to transform the criticism into an honorific and describing Neanderthals in the present tense. “Neanderthals are hunter-gatherers, they’re protectors of their family. They are resilient. They are resourceful. They tend to their own.”
They are also extinct, Marsha.
Apparently, they don’t look at calendars in Austin either. Between public school and university schedules throughout the state, spring break begins on March 8th and continues to March 22nd. We know what happened last year in Fort Lauderdale and South Padre Island, and that was two months into the quarantine. Does Abbott expect Texas students to be more responsible one year into enforced isolation, constant zooming, and general covid fatigue? And then there’s Easter. As a Catholic university, we get five days off for prayer, reflection, and celebration. And there’s plenty of time in there for hanging out at potential super-spreader events, also known as Midnight Mass and Easter dinner.
Finally, let’s go back to Winter Storm Uri. Since Abbott handled the disaster so dismally and blamed everyone but himself, and since just about everyone believes the COVID policy shift is a smoke screen, it stands to reason that Abbott has forgotten that countless Texans were displaced during the storm and were forced to share close quarters with people they hadn’t seen up close and personal for a year. Some of those people were family, but quite often they were Good Samaritan neighbors who offered refuge. Anyone request COVID test results or vaccine cards before moving in together? Some people still do not have running water or are living elsewhere while their homes undergo extensive repairs.
We still don’t know the COVID implications from Uri.
Nevertheless, Greg Abbott thinks it’s time for Texas to move forward, and he trusts that we will behave responsibly in the process.
Why should we? He hasn’t.