Courtesy Photo / Texas Governor's Office
Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at his Thursday news conference, his first in two months.
During his first press conference in two months, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday touted a COVID-19 antibody therapy drug but offered no new plans to reverse the state's alarming rise in cases and hospitalizations.
At an appearance at Lubbock's Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, the Republican governor talked up Eli Lilly and Co.’s. new drug bamlanivimab, which he said would be distributed to Texas hospitals starting this week.
"This therapy drug will help prevent hospitalizations and reduce the strain on our healthcare system and workers," he said. "However, as encouraging as these advancements are, there is still no substitute for personal responsibility."
Instead of introducing new measures to combat COVID-19's spread — as have been introduced by other U.S. governors
— Abbott advised Texans to continue wearing masks, staying physically distant and washing hands.
“We’ve been there before," Abbott said. "We can do it again."
Texas this month became the first U.S. state to report more than 1 million cases, and the U.S. this week tallied 250,000 COVID-19 deaths, nearly 20,000 of those in the Lone Star State. Even so, businesses here continue operating at 75% capacity under an earlier order from the governor.
Abbott's unwillingness to impose new restrictions stands in sharp contrast to a growing number of governors, including those of California and Pennsylvania, who have ordered business closures and limits on gatherings to stem a rising tide of infections that's expected to grow worse over Thanksgiving.
After facing pushback from both Democrats for not being restrictive enough and from the right of his own party for quashing personal liberties, Abbott appears to have stepped back from taking meaningful action to fight the pandemic, Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson said.
"At some point, he just took his hands off the wheel and said, 'To hell with it,'" Jillson added.
The one exception where Abbott appears eager to intervene is to push back at communities such as Dallas and El Paso, which have sought to impose their own restrictions amid the worsening numbers.
During Thursday's presser, Abbott shot down the suggestion that county judges and mayors — largely Democrats in the state's largest cities — should have more authority to implement shutdowns. He argued municipalities aren't following the orders he's already put in place.
“We need the state to step in and lead or get out of the way and let us lead,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Tuesday of the rising tension between the governor and the state's municipalities, the Texas Tribune reports
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