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White House says if Gov. Greg Abbott can't lead on COVID-19, he should 'get out of the way'

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press event. - COURTESY PHOTO / OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
  • Courtesy Photo / Office of the Governor
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press event.

During Tuesday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said that if Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won't act to slow the spread of COVID-19, they should “get out of the way and let other people do the job.”

The remark came after a Yahoo News correspondent asked her how much direct responsibility the two Republican governors bear for the spike in delta variant cases. One-third of all U.S. COVID-19 cases reported in the past week were in Florida and Texas, White House pandemic response coordinator Jeff Zients said Monday.

"I think what I said yesterday was that at a point in every leader's life, they have to make a decision about whether they're gonna abide by public health guidelines to save people's lives or whether they're gonna be guided by politics," Psaki said, according to Yahoo News. "And I will let you all be the judge of that. Public health guidelines are pretty clear as it relates to the benefit of vaccination, as it relates to the benefit of masking for communities that are not vaccinated. And you'll hear the president convey later if you are not going to be a part of the solution, if you're not going to be a part of saving people's lives, then get out of the way and let other people do the job."

When the correspondent pushed Psaki to clarify what she meant by "get out of the way," she said the governors shouldn't make it more difficult for municipal officials to issue mask or vaccine requirements.

Abbott, who's running for reelection in 2022, issued recent executive orders prohibiting cities and school districts from instituting mask requirements and barring municipalities from requiring their employees to get vaccinated. However, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner this week directed all city workers to wear masks inside city buildings, effectively bucking governor's order.

For his part, DeSantis has repeatedly downplayed the current rise in cases and doubled down on his refusal to impose mask mandates or business restrictions.

Ranked by the percentage of their populations that has been fully vaccinated, Florida ranks 24th in the nation (49%) and Texas ranks 37th (44%).

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