How has Texas handled the COVID-19 Pandemic?


Texan shopping with a mask outside HEB, which maintains COVID-19 safety requirements even after the mask mandate was lifted on March 10. Photo: Getty Images

Over a year has passed since WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and with cases worldwide breaching 124 million and deaths surpassing 2.7 million as of Monday, March 22, 2021, continued perseverance from our government leaders is absolutely necessary to ensure this panic ends. And for the students and staff at The Village School who live in Texas, the state with the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, a strong COVID-19 response has been, and will continue to be, absolutely necessary to maintain the public health. But the question is, has Texas handled the COVID-19 Pandemic effectively?

When former President Donald Trump delegated the pandemic response to the states, they had the opportunity to call the shots. The overall reaction to Texas’s COVID-19 pandemic has been a mix of some highs, but mostly lows.

“Not going to lie, I kind of stopped paying attention to [the] Texas COVID-19 response,” said sophomore Rohan Bendapudi, a debater who is greatly involved with national issues. “I stopped caring, I couldn’t handle the stupidity and all.”

Many Texans have been extremely disappointed with the state’s COVID-19 response. As Lauren Leatherby and Rich Harris of the New York Times identified, states that imposed the fewest restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic experienced the brunt of the outbreak. And with Texas having a mid-to-weak response, it makes sense that we see the case counts follow the increase and decrease in restrictions. 

“Texas has handled the COVID-19 pandemic not too well,” said sophomore Caroline  Hsu, a student body leader. “I think more action and more enforcement should have been used by our state government.”

Texas locked down in the spring of 2020, when it had a relatively low amount of cases, but reopened extremely quickly after that. When Texas faced surges in the summer, Governor Greg Abbott did close bars and limited restaurant capacity. However, as Texas eased efforts to contain COVID-19, the cases spiked again.

“I definitely think a stronger response from our state could have changed everything,” said Hsu. “Less cases, less deaths, and faster ‘getting back to normal.’”

We can look to states including but not limited to Vermont, Washington, Alaska, Louisiana, Michigan, and Colorado for examples of a highly effective pandemic response. Although Vermont shares its borders with some of the hardest-hit states, and the virus arrived in the state during its first wave throughout the United States, it swiftly decreased its initial wave of cases through a lack of complacency and immediate action. When Michigan was hit extremely hard in March and April, 40% of COVID-19 deaths in the state were Black residents, although they only make up 14% of the population. The National Governors Association continues that local leaders in Michigan formed a health equity task force to tackle the racial disparities of COVID-19.

“The COVID pandemic has not been properly handled at all in Texas,” said sophomore Anjai Gupta, a lifetime resident of Texas. “It has had very clear, deep-seated political roots in our state, too.”

This issue also has a deep political root – differently-leaning news outlets spin stories of COVID-19 in different manners, leading to democrats and republicans receiving different opinions on these matters of public health, and thus viewing the risk levels of the pandemic in very different lights. Thus, with Texas being a state with a large population of people in both parties, politics and public health continue to be incredibly entwined. Similar tensions can be seen with our state’s leaders. Conflicts between Democratic mayors and Republican governors are evident in Texas, alongside states such as Florida. 

It is clear that this pandemic has been a whirlwind of struggles, for citizens and governments alike. However, it is up to our state and national leaders to support their people in times of crisis, and that cannot be more true for the state of Texas. Although the lifting of the mask mandate could have devastating impacts on Texans, one can hope that some of our leaders continue to persevere and reverse the damage of this action, bettering, and maintaining the public health for good.