Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis must resign and allow state courts to enact emergency measures to curb the surge in COVID-19 cases that both Republican governors have adamantly refused to address.
Abbott, today (Aug. 10) was forced to appeal for out-of-state help to fight the COVID surge, while his destructive orders preventing mask in schools and other steps to curb the outbreak have exacerbated the problem.
The rolling two-week daily average of new COVID-19 cases has increased by 165% to 8,533, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the disease.
Only 45% of the state’s population has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the federal U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If the situation gets much worse–and it’s heading in that direction–the courts could effectively limit his power. On Monday (Aug. 9) Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins filed a lawsuit asking a judge to strike down Abbott’s mask mandate ban.
State school districts in Dallas, Houston and the state capital of Austin are in open rebellion. The state’s three largest districts are refusing to enforce his ban on masks in classrooms.
So far, Abbott is standing by his emergency order banning county and local governments from requiring masks and social distancing to lower the risk from the highly contagious Delta virus variant.
Meanwhile, Florida recorded the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in the nation.
The state has been forced to appeal to the Biden administration for 300 ventilators, according to ABC News, which obtained a federal Department of Health and Human Services document to that effect.
DeSantis has openly clashed with the administration and personally criticized Biden for meddling in the state, but the requested ventilators reportedly arrived yesterday.
Even so, DeSantis maintained his state of denial about the seriousness of the outbreak. He claimed today he was unware of the request or the delivery of the ventilators.
Florida reported an average of over 19,000 new coronavirus cases per day last week, and more than 13,000 hospitalizations were reported across the state Sunday, according to local news reports.
Dr. Joshua Lenchus, Broward County’s Health’s chief medical officer, said nurses and physicians “passed burnout a long time ago. This is sheer exhaustion” he told the local ABC News affiliate.
To make matters worse, 99.5 percent of the COVID deaths and 96 percent of new patients are unvaccinated, Lenchus said.
Texas ranks second behind Florida for the highest number of new daily COVID-19 infections, up 134 percent over the last 14 days. An estimated 99.5 percent of Texans who died from the virus were unvaccinated, the Texas Tribune reported.
In Florida, 49.7 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, too low to provide herd immunity. Vaccine resistance in the state remains high, despite the DeSantis-fueled outbreak, .
“The people who stay here longer are unvaccinated; the people that are a little more severe are unvaccinated, so it really is a big difference. Even if you are vaccinated, and you make it into the hospital, the chances are much higher that you will make it out than if you were unvaccinated.”
Last May, DeSantis and the Republican-controlled legislature enacted a bill banning lockdowns, vaccine passports and all local emergency orders, leaving the state wide open to the Delta variant, which is more contagious and affects children as well as adults.
An explosion of pediatric patients, especially those 13 and older, have thrown doctors for a loop.
“Last year we didn’t see this tremendous explosion of kids,” Lenchus said. “I think part of this has to do with the Delta variant, the increase in infectivity of this, and the fact that those kids at least 12 and younger have not been vaccinated.”
In Austin, TX., about about a third of recent hospitalizations have been among patients younger than 50, according to Austin health officials.
“The situation is critical,” Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis county’s health authority, said in a statement. “Our hospitals are severely stressed and there is little we can do to alleviate their burden with the surging cases.”
“The governor is preventing the city from keeping kids and adults safe,” Austin city council member Alison Alter told the New York Times.
“He’s going to have a lot of deaths on his hands here. This is a matter of life and death for our community.”
Like Texas, local officials in Florida are simply ignoring the governor’s orders. The Tallahassee school superintendent said students in Florida’s state capital will be required to wear masks in open defiance of DeSantis’s ban.
DeSantis has threatened to take punitive steps against officials including withholding salaries for failing to follow his orders. He has left the issue up to parents, who have the right to opt out of mask requirements.
The state Board of Education approved an emergency rule last week allowing parents to receive private school vouchers to avoid public school COVID-19 safety policies, including mask requirements.
As both states near the breaking point, with no end in sight to the explosion of cases, Abbott and DeSantis appear to be incapable of enacting common-sense measures to protect their residents.
Instead, they’ve chosen to take a stand on political grounds in obvious deference to Donald Trump, without regard to the opinions of medical experts and epidemiologists.
The federal government is limited by law from imposing a state of emergency and seizing the reins of power, but it can condition aid on a reversal of actions by both governors, who now bear responsibility for hundreds of deaths.
The only other recourse is for state residents to rise up and demand their resignations. It should happen now, before the death toll gets any higher.
The crisis is that critical.