Abbott is criticized for his ban on mask mandates as cases soar in Texas.


The dilemma sounded familiar. A prominent, ambitious red-state governor, who had staked out a firm position opposed to mask mandates and other aggressive measures to combat the spread of the virus, suddenly found himself on the defensive as cases and hospitalizations soared in his state.

First, it was Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Now it is Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who is facing withering criticism as I.C.U. beds have dwindled to the single digits in Austin and health officials in San Antonio have labeled its risk level just a step below critical. But Mr. Abbott remains firm in his refusal to enact any statewide mandate while he prohibits local officials from doing so in their own communities.

The fear and frustration comes as schools prepare to reopen in the nation’s second most populous state, raising worries about further spread of the virus.

“The governor has shown a callous disregard for life and safety in defiance of clear medical guidance and is risking the safety of our children and the recovery of our economy,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio said.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Mr. Abbott said he was focusing on personal responsibility, but she did not address the specifics of the state’s Covid crisis.

“Governor Abbott has been clear that we must rely on personal responsibility, not government mandates,” the statement said. “Every Texan has a right to choose for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, or get vaccinated.”

The statement also said that while all eligible Texans were urged to get vaccinated, the vaccine itself “will always remain voluntary and never forced in Texas.”

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