After digging in his heels with a ban against mask mandates, Gov. Abbott is now taking dramatic measures to counteract a surge in COVID-19, including paying health care workers from outside Texas big money to come here and help bail us out.
He's also requested that hospitals postpone elective medical procedures, and is directing emergency personnel to open five new COVID-19 antibody infusion centers across the state, as bed capacity in hospitals shrinks.
Health care professionals say that in central Texas, traveling nurses are making $120 per hour, and in some cases are being offered up to $6,000 per week.
"Gov. Greg Abbott seeking EXTREMELY high paid out/of-state health care personnel to staff Texas hospitals because of his deliberate & deadly mismanagement of COVID-19. Nurses (travel/agency) are being offered $6K+ a week to come to Texas. Fiscally irresponsible," says one.
"I've already received a request from Texas and Louisiana for my RN services. No salary shared, but willing to pay for my relocation. Recruiter states they are desperate," says another.
Cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 across Texas have been skyrocketing, hitting more than 7,300 people, or about the same number of people hospitalized in 2020 when Abbott first implemented a mask mandate.
The increase in cases is due to the Delta variant. In an August 10 press conference, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins reported that the big surge is due to the Delta variant, with the percentage of cases having risen from 12 percent of overall cases to 97 percent.
Jenkins also said that the Delta variant is five times more contagious than COVID-19, and that it's particularly contagious for children under 12 who cannot get vaccinated.
But Abbott's GA-38 order, issued in July, forbids schools from mandating masks, stating that "no government entity, including a county, city, school district and public health authority" can require students or staff to wear a mask.
Two Texas school districts have already defied Abbott's ban: Both Dallas and Austin will require students and teachers to wear masks on campus, and Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II has said a school board meeting has been scheduled to discuss the idea. Houston already made it a requirement in early August for city employees to wear masks.
Abbott previously warned that local officials who try to mandate masks can be fined.
On August 9, Judge Jenkins sought a temporary restraining order against Abbott's July executive order, calling the mandates unenforceable.
"Governor Abbott has decided on a course of action that prohibits face-covering mandates on a state-wide basis," Jenkins said in his request. "Irrespective of his motivations or the dangerous nature of such a decision, it is within his legislatively-delegated authority to decide to mandate face coverings or decline to do so."
In another last-ditch effort, Abbott is calling for an increase in availability of vaccinations across the state and encouraging all Texans to get one. (Visit covidvaccine.texas.gov to find a provider.)
"The State of Texas is taking action to combat the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and ensure that our hospitals and communities have the resources and support they need to mitigate the virus," Abbott says. "Texans can help bolster our efforts by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and it is our best defense against this virus. Texans can visit covidvaccine.texas.gov to find a COVID-19 vaccine provider near them."