Rand Paul: Greg Abbott's Open Border With Mexico Is Flooding Us With COVID 19 Carriers

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Jan 17, 2022, 4:50:26 PMJan 17
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Crowded Events. No Masks. Then a Coronavirus Diagnosis for Gov. Abbott of
Texas.

The announcement that Gov. Greg Abbott had tested positive for the
coronavirus came amid a pitched battle over public health measures in
schools and a new surge in hospitalizations.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has no symptoms after testing positive for the
coronavirus on Tuesday and is receiving an antibody treatment, the
governor’s office announced.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has no symptoms after testing positive for the
coronavirus on Tuesday and is receiving an antibody treatment, the
governor’s office announced.Credit...Montinique Monroe/Getty Images
J. David Goodman

By J. David Goodman
Published Aug. 18, 2021Updated Aug. 22, 2021

HOUSTON — In recent days, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas commemorated the
anniversary of India’s independence with a crowd in his office. He mingled
with hundreds of Republican supporters at a packed campaign event. He
posed with the brother of the famed guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Photographs from the events show that few of those who met with the
governor wore masks, and neither did Mr. Abbott, who has prohibited local
governments from mandating them.

So when Mr. Abbott tested positive for the coronavirus this week, Texans
began questioning the circumstances that may have led to his infection and
the efforts to identify those who may have been in close contact with the
governor, who was fully vaccinated.

At least 10 other sitting governors — four Democrats and six Republicans —
have contracted the virus since the pandemic began, but Mr. Abbott’s
diagnosis landed in the middle of a pitched battle between the governor
and his largest cities over public health measures in schools and as
Covid-19 patients are again packing hospitals.

In its announcement on Tuesday, Mr. Abbott’s office said the governor, 63,
is tested daily and began receiving monoclonal antibody treatment after
his positive result. The treatment is used to help prevent hospitalization
and is usually reserved for those who have compromised immune systems or
other underlying conditions, or those older than 65.

Mr. Abbott’s age alone would place him at greater risk for progression to
severe Covid-19, said Dr. Jessica Justman, an infectious-disease
specialist and epidemiology professor at Columbia University’s Mailman
School of Public Health. That Mr. Abbott is paralyzed from the waist down
— he was injured by a falling tree in 1984 and uses a wheelchair — adds
medical complexity because it increases the risk of other infections, she
added.

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Mr. Abbott’s aides declined to elaborate further on his condition, except
to say that monoclonal antibody treatment must be approved by a doctor.
The governor received his first vaccine dose in December.
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Image
Mr. Abbott receiving his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine in
December.
Mr. Abbott receiving his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine in
December.Credit...Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman, via
Associated Press

His aides also would not provide Mr. Abbott’s schedule or describe his
activities in recent days. Hours before his positive test, however, Mr.
Abbott spoke before a crowd of several hundred people in a small golf and
retirement community north of Dallas called Heritage Ranch. The governor
could be seen in images posted by his campaign speaking on a stage and
shaking hands with members of the local Republican club.

It was not immediately clear what efforts had been made to identify and
quarantine those who were in close contact with the governor. His office
referred questions back to its statement on Tuesday, which said all of Mr.
Abbott’s close contacts “today” had been notified.

Collin County, where the event took place, does not conduct its own
contact tracing, a county spokesman said, relying instead on the state
health department, which did not respond to a list of questions about its
efforts to locate close contacts of Mr. Abbott.

An image posted on Monday to Mr. Abbott’s personal Twitter account showed
him posing with Jimmie Vaughan, a well-known blues rock guitarist based in
Texas whose brother died in 1990. Shortly after Mr. Abbott announced his
positive test, Mr. Vaughan said in a statement that he had tested
negative.

On Friday, the governor met in his office with at least 18 people —
“friends from the Indian American community here in the state of Texas” —
to commemorate the anniversary of India’s independence. Only one mask
could be seen.

But it was images of the event in Collin County on Monday night that drew
the most attention.

That the governor had been at a large and almost entirely mask-less event
a day before his positive test dramatized the largely two-track experience
of the virus in Texas — and underscored the politically charged nature of
any response.
Image
Mr. Abbott at an event in Collin County the day before he tested positive
for the virus.
Mr. Abbott at an event in Collin County the day before he tested positive
for the virus.Credit...Greg Abbott, via Twitter

Collin County, once reliably conservative, has become hotly contested by
Democrats and is seen by many political analysts in Texas as a bellwether
for the state. Democratic candidates and activists believed they could
flip the county in 2020 but came up short. Mr. Trump won the county by
more than four percentage points.

Energizing Republican voters in the county is important for the party, and
staying in touch with his base is important for Mr. Abbott, who is facing
challenges in the Republican primary next year from several candidates who
see him as vulnerable on the right.

Mr. Abbott’s response last year to the coronavirus, measures that included
business restrictions and a mask mandate, angered some Republicans and
helped spark a revolt within the state party. Allen West, the former
Florida congressman, was elevated to the party’s top post last summer and
has since quit the position to challenge Mr. Abbott.

But as coronavirus hospitalizations have again surged in the state,
nearing last year’s peaks, Mr. Abbott has resisted calls for new mandates.
He also has banned local elected officials from imposing mask or vaccine
requirements. After leaders in several large cities, including Dallas, San
Antonio and Houston, bucked the order and went ahead with mask mandates,
the governor took them to court. The Texas Supreme Court is currently
weighing the issue.

In place of mandates, the governor has instead urged Texans — whose rate
of vaccination lags the national average — to get vaccinated voluntarily.
As intensive care units become increasingly filled, he has asked hospitals
to voluntarily postpone elective procedures and has expanded the use of
the monoclonal antibody treatment he is now receiving. The state health
department also has requested five mortuary trailers from the federal
government to be deployed as needed, though none had been requested by
cities or counties as of Tuesday.
Image
Parents protested Mr. Abbott’s opposition to public school mask mandates
with their children outside of the Governor’s Mansion on Monday.
Parents protested Mr. Abbott’s opposition to public school mask mandates
with their children outside of the Governor’s Mansion on
Monday.Credit...Eric Gay/Associated Press

In a short video message about his positive test, Mr. Abbott pointed to
his own vaccination to explain why he did not feel sick. “I have received
the Covid-19 vaccine and that may be one reason why I’m really not feeling
any symptoms right now,” he said from a balcony in the Governor’s Mansion
overlooking the State Capitol.

But his treatment, and the lack of information about it, raised questions
even among some doctors. “It’s hard to piece it together from the public
information,” said Dr. Peter J. Hotez, a professor at Baylor College of
Medicine in Houston and a vaccine expert.

The use of monoclonal antibodies before any symptoms develop is not
unusual, though, said Dr. Aruna Subramanian, an infectious-disease doctor
at Stanford Medicine. “It is really meant for people who are not yet in
the hospital to prevent hospitalization,” she said. “The earlier you get
it, the better.”

But, she added, the level of testing and treatment received by Mr. Abbott
is not typical. “This should be all the more reason for people to get
vaccinated, and wear masks and take precautions,” she said. “Because
they’re not going to get the treatment he’s getting.”

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