Texas Gov Greg Abbott appeared at a campaign event held indoors just hours before his positive diagnosis for Covid-19 this week, and was seen mingling with supporters in the crowded venue in a video posted by his own campaign.
The video, tweeted by the Abbott campaign on Monday evening, shows Mr Abbott in a packed room surrounded by dozens of supporters, many of whom appeared to be elderly. No one in the video is masked, including the governor, and no signs of social distancing could be seen.
The event took place Monday evening, and on Tuesday the governor’s communications director told a local news station that “[e]veryone that the Governor has been in close contact with today has been notified”.
It wasn’t clear if the governor’s efforts to notify those around him extended to any guests of the Heritage Ranch event on Monday; the governor’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.
Mr Abbott, a hardline conservative, has emerged as an opponent of mask mandates in recent weeks even as his state and Florida, which is pursuing similar policies relating to mask usage, have become the worst hotspots for Covid-19 in the nation. The danger of the disease remains high for unvaccinated residents of the states; roughly 50 per cent of Floridians have received two doses of a vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson jab, while the number is around 45 per cent in Texas.
Many Republican leaders, including Mr Abbott, have faced criticism for the deep politicization of the Covid-19 pandemic; since the beginning of the US outbreak, various conservative figure have taken stances against a wide array of steps taken to protect people’s health, including mask-wearing, social distancing, and even in some cases the vaccines themselves.
That political divide has been one of the main factors blamed for the US’s shocking death toll from the virus – more than 623,000 have died in the US from the virus so far, a higher confirmed total than any other country on the planet.
Misinformation about vaccines in particular is thought to be the driving reason behind plateauing vaccination rates across the US, so much so that Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a public health warning about the issue and the White House has put pressure on tech companies, Facebook in particular, to do more to fight the rampant lies about Covid-19 that continue to spread on their platforms.
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