The New York Times
By Dan Levin
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, though he has no symptoms, the governor’s office announced.
An ardent opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, Mr. Abbott, a Republican, has taken his opposition to such requirements all the way to the state Supreme Court. Mr. Abbott, who is fully vaccinated, will now be isolated in the Governor’s Mansion while receiving monoclonal antibody treatment, which can help Covid-19 patients who are at risk of getting very sick.
“The governor has been testing daily, and today was the first positive test result,” the statement said. “Governor Abbott is in constant communication with his staff, agency heads, and government.”
At least 10 other sitting governors — four Democrats and six Republicans — have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to reports compiled by Ballotpedia; so have four lieutenant governors, all Republicans.
Vaccinations in Texas lag behind those of many other states, and coronavirus deaths are rising, though far more slowly than in prior waves, given that a majority of the state’s oldest and most vulnerable residents are now vaccinated. The state has averaged more than 14,700 new cases a day as of Monday, an increase of 53 percent from two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times database.
Mr. Abbott, 63, has faced withering criticism as coronavirus cases have increased sharply in Texas and available intensive-care beds have dwindled in Austin and other cities. But he maintained his ban on mask mandates, which prohibits local officials from imposing restrictions in their communities.
Fear and frustration over the course of the pandemic in Texas, the nation’s second most populous state, come as schools are preparing to reopen, raising worries about further spread of the virus.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance recommending that even fully vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors in high-risk areas, and that everyone wear masks in schools, regardless of vaccination status. Mr. Abbott, though, doubled down in the opposite direction. He issued an executive order that prohibited local governments and state agencies from mandating vaccines, and reaffirmed previous decisions to prohibit local officials from mandating masks.
The governor also affirmed that schools could not impose mask mandates for students; some public health experts warned that the ban could lead to another surge in cases.
A vast majority of counties across the United States are experiencing either “substantial” or “high” transmission, according to the C.D.C.
Late on Friday, after Mr. Abbott’s ban suffered at least three legal setbacks, the state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said he was taking the issue to the State Supreme Court. The setbacks were in areas with Democratic leaders, rampant coronavirus cases and rising hospitalizations.
The State Supreme Court then sided with the state on Sunday, granting a request for an emergency stay of an appellate court ruling that would have allowed schools to make face coverings mandatory.
As the virus surged, the Texas Department of State Health Services requested five mortuary trailers from the federal government on Aug. 4 “as a precaution,” Douglas Loveday, a spokesman for the state health department, said in an emailed statement. The mortuary trailers will be kept in San Antonio, though none have been requested by cities or counties as of Tuesday, he said.
The five trailers are scheduled to arrive in Texas beginning on Friday, according to a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Edgar Sandoval contributed reporting.
Correction: Aug. 17, 2021
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this item referred incorrectly to guidance recently issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The guidance said that everyone, including fully vaccinated people, should wear masks in public indoor settings, not that the fully vaccinated did not need to do so.
Dan Levin covers American youth for the National Desk. He was a foreign correspondent covering Canada from 2016 until 2018. From 2008 to 2015, Mr. Levin was based in Beijing, where he reported on human rights, politics and culture in China and Asia.