WASHINGTON – Texas Governor Greg Abbott became a trending social media topic on Tuesday after he criticized younger residents of his state for what he said was their role in a coronavirus spike.
Responses to Abbott’s comments came from state leaders who said he didn’t do enough to control the spread while allowing Texas to reopen.
Abbott specifically called out young people.
“What we’re seeing there is that people of that age group, they’re not following these appropriate best health and safety practices,” he said in an interview Monday with Lubbock’s KLBK-TV. “They’re not wearing face masks, they’re not sanitizing their hands, they’re not maintaining the safe distancing practices. And as a result, they are contracting COVID-19 at a record pace in the state of Texas.”
‘It’s been one thing after another’: Americans are unhappiest they’ve been in 50 years, poll shows
Abbott, a Republican, did not provide any evidence of an increase in infections among 20-somethings during his TV appearances Monday. He said it’s hard to tell where those people contracted COVID-19, but said Tuesday that the uptick could be from Memorial Day gatherings, bars, and social gatherings.
A Texas Department of State Health Services spokesman Monday said it’s too soon to have hard data on 20-somethings contracting COVID-19 at a record pace. San Antonio health officials said a majority of new Bexar County coronavirus cases are people in their 20s, according to the USA TODAY Network’s Austin American-Statesman newspaper.
The state of Texas began to reopen at the end of April. Bars were allowed to open May 22 with limited capacity and Abbott announced on June 3 that Texas would enter its third phase of reopening, meaning that restaurants could increase capacity to 75%.
“We believe that a lot of people have let down their guard,” the governor said. “The summer’s here. Things are opening up. They feel like they can go out without having to wear a face mask.”
More: Top coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci says he hasn’t talked to Trump in two weeks
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, called Abbott’s approach “very Trumpian” and said the governor was “blam(ing) others”.
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential election and is from Texas, wrote, “Greg Abbott believes in ‘individual responsibility’ for everyone except when it’s his turn to take some.”
“You opened up bars too early, blocked cities from requiring face masks, and failed to put enough testing and contact tracing in place. Poor leadership,” Castro tweeted.
USA TODAY has reached out to Abbott’s office for comment and additional information.
Pence: Other venues under consideration for Trump’s Tulsa rally, including ‘outdoor activities’
“Gov. Abbott has followed Donald Trump’s orders at every turn in his pandemic response, including downplaying the seriousness of the virus and plowing through reopening phases,” Tara Pohlmeyer, communications director of Progress Texas, said to USA TODAY in a written statement.
“There is a way to keep Texans safer, and that is to mandate mask-wearing in public places. Wearing a mask promotes freedom by allowing Texans to be in public safely. If we’re really in this together, all Texans have a duty to protect each other and Gov. Abbott has a duty to take responsibility for his actions,” she continued.
Kendall Scudder, host of Pod Bless Texas, tweeted: “Oh look— the guy who opened the state against all scientific and expert reccomendation is now blaming us for his failures.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has gone from “coronavirus is over, everybody go have fun” to “it’s all the fault of these young people that coronavirus is getting worse”
— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) June 16, 2020
Greg Abbott: “Go out and support businesses! Throw caution into the wind. We have to save the economy.”
*there’s a coronavirus spike in TX*
Greg Abbott: “No, not like that.”
— Adam Best (@adamcbest) June 16, 2020
More: Dexamethasone is touted to help COVID-19 survival rates. Here’s what we know.
After a steady rise in cases since the state moved into the third phase, Texas saw another new peak Tuesday, reporting 2,622 new cases and 2,518 Texans who have tested positive for the coronavirus are currently hospitalized.
Texas state officials and some city leaders argued after Abbott began to reopen the state, with local officials making the case it was too soon to begin reopening.
Memory loss, gnarled fingers, panic attacks: COVID-19 didn’t kill these Americans, but many might never be the same
A group of Texas mayors asked Abbott to require face coverings in public.
But Abbott made said Tuesday that he would not require Texans to wear face coverings, adding that local jurisdictions can impose fines on those violating his executive orders.
Contributing: Nicole Cobler, Mark D. Wilson Austin American-Statesman
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas Gov. Abbott blames younger residents for COVID-19 spread