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  • Austin Hedgcoth

747 Days of COVID and Controversy

DENTON - Two years ago, Governor Greg Abbott (R-Texas) had a decision to make. 83,000 deaths later, the citizens of Texas find themselves wondering whether he made the right one.

As election season rolls around, the governor’s job may depend on the people’s answer.

In March of 2020, as most state governments decided to step in and implement stay-at-home orders, the Texas government decided to step back and let the local governments decide what to do.

Every town, every city, and every county proceeded to take a different approach to combating COVID-19 — the Lone Star State was in chaos.

Meanwhile, unemployment numbers were skyrocketing. At its worst, Texas had an unemployment rate of 13%, a grim situation foreshadowed by an 860% increase in the number of Texans filing for unemployment during the first week of the pandemic.

Additionally, many small businesses in Texas found themselves on the edge of financial ruin despite the long-term, low-interest small business loans offered by the federal government.

In an effort to protect both workers and businesses, Abbott took a big risk: he introduced a multi-stage plan to reopen the state.

The governor’s decision was met with widespread criticism, and many health experts felt Texas was moving too quickly.

Regardless, on May 1, 2020, restaurants, movie theaters and retail stores all across the state were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity. Hair salons reopened the following week, and by the end of the month, child care facilities, bars and gyms were back in business.

Over the summer, as Texas continued to reopen, confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths soared to record highs.

As a result, Abbott announced the first statewide mask mandate, an order that would stay in effect until the spring.

The State Fair was also canceled for the first time since World War II, but as winter blew in and 2020 drew to a close, healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities began to receive the first doses of the vaccine.

A few months later, in March of 2021, the vaccine was made available to the public: the last part of a nearly year-long plan and the final green light Abbott needed to reopen Texas 100%.

Now, in March of 2022, we find ourselves as close to “normal” as we have been since the pandemic began. The unemployment rate in Texas is down to 5%, the state’s GDP is higher than it was pre-pandemic, and while masks remain a staple piece for many, events are happening, schools and businesses are open, and hospitals have space for patients.

Life in the Lone Star State may never look exactly the same again, but that’s OK. With a history of adaptability and the 9th largest economy in the world, Texas continues to pave its own path to success in this new post-pandemic reality.

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