DALLAS—Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has tested positive for the coronavirus as cases across his state surge and hospital beds fill up.
Abbott, 63, who is vaccinated against COVID-19, is currently receiving the Regeneron antibody treatment, according to a statement from his office released Tuesday. Abbott has also told others he received a booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine, NBC reported, citing two anonymous sources.
“The Governor has been testing daily, and today was the first positive test result,” the statement read. “The Governor will isolate in the Governor's Mansion and continue to test daily. Governor Abbott is receiving Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment.”
Hours before the announcement, Abbott posted pictures to his Twitter account of himself sitting with Texas musician Jimmie Vaughan, brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Vaughan’s family. They were not wearing masks.
Vaughan said that he had since tested negative. He tweeted, “We want to let everyone know, that despite the news today of Governor Abbott’s positive Covid diagnosis, Jimmie & family have tested negative and are doing fine. Thanks so very much to all who reached out with concern.”
The night before Abbott’s positive test, he attended a crowded, maskless fundraiser at a country club outside Dallas, Heritage Ranch. Photos and video posted by Abbott’s own campaign showed a crowd of hundreds, largely elderly people, without face coverings.
The Republican governor has long opposed coronavirus mitigation measures like vaccine mandates, mask mandates, or closing indoor dining, but the recent resurgence of the virus has entrenched him in a bitter war with the White House and his own local governments. He has forbidden local authorities across the state such as school boards and city legislatures from instituting coronavirus restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, an order which the Texas Supreme Court upheld Sunday.
News of Abbott’s diagnosis was met with frustration by some who have witnessed firsthand the effects of his policy on mask mandates.
Professor Michael Phillips at Collin College in Plano told The Daily Beast he has been prohibited from recommending masks to students, even after the school’s dean of nursing died from COVID-19 recently.
“This variant is raging in large part because of the governor’s policies,” Phillips said.
Texas accounts for an outsize percentage of the nation’s spiking daily case counts as the virus’ more contagious Delta variant rips through the country. The state recorded 20,000 new cases multiple days last week. Hospitals across the state have filled with COVID-19 patients, most of them unvaccinated, and hospitalizations have surpassed their summer 2020 peak.
“What’s maddening is that he got a vaccination and has access to aggressive treatment that most people won’t have access to until they’re at death’s door and maybe not even then,” Phillips said. “Yet as a governor he’s resisted Medicaid expansion and made Texas a leader in terms of the uninsured.”
Dallas resident L. Arielle Richman said, “I have a child in high school who has been immunized, but I also take care of my elderly parents, one of whom has Alzheimers. I worry about what would happen if my high risk parents would need hospitalization due to covid and I couldn't be with them. I am totally frustrated with Governor Abbott. I don't understand why he’s blocking efforts to require masking.”
The Texas legislature has also been hit. More than 50 Democrats from the Texas House and Senate fled the state last month to deny Republicans a quorum to vote on restrictive new voting laws. Six of them later tested positive.
Data from the state’s public health agency showed that 12 of the 22 hospital regions had fewer than 10 intensive care unit beds apiece as of the past weekend, and seven of those dozen had zero. Dallas authorities announced last week that the city had no remaining pediatric ICU beds. Austin authorities pronounced their shortage of hospital beds “dire” around the same time. An 11-month-old in Houston undergoing seizures needed to be airlifted to a hospital 150 miles away because no hospital had capacity to treat her.