Texas county officials grapple with COVID mitigation strategies as governor bans local mandates

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Four trauma service areas in Texas have now exceeded the 15% threshold that used to allow local counties to roll back business capacity. But, Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest executive order no longer allows local governments to make those restrictions.

“I hope residents heed the warnings,” Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra urges his residents to mask up again as hospitals take in more COVID patients this week. But, he can’t enforce them.

He’s frustrated the governor has stripped local government officials’ power to mandate masks, and roll back business capacity.

“When the governor has 254 County judges, I’m one of, there’s a huge dynamic variation from hot red zones, to not a single COVID in the county. And so I find it, I find it a little bit of a blunt instrument to roll out statewide limiting control of those that are in charge and directing their local emergency management response,” Judge Becerra explained.

Doctors are concerned about the lack of enforcement, especially since only 53% of the state’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.

“When you pair the combination of relatively low vaccine uptake with relaxed mitigation strategies, that’s a formula for a significant surge in the activity of the pandemic,” Dr. Rodney Young, the Regional Chair of Family and Community Medicine for Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, said Monday.

The timing is also concerning. Travis County Judge Andy Brown said he wishes the state would at least give school districts the power to mandate masks.

“We’re about to have a whole bunch of unvaccinated kids in close quarters, going back to school, and they need the ability to if they want to require masks, if they want to take other measures to make sure that the virus is not being transmitted in schools,” Brown said.

Doctors hope Texans choose personal responsibility.

“Just because you can’t be required to wear a mask or required to socially distance doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t choose to do those things when you’re going to engage in activities that are more risky,” Dr. Young said.

Gov. Abbott has reiterated the importance of getting the vaccine, but has made it clear, he will not be mandating masks or rolling back capacity.

His office said Monday state leaders are working on a plan to address hospital staffing concerns as hospitalizations continue to rise.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Community Stories