When Gov. Greg Abbott announced he was going to completely reopen the state of Texas and cancel the mask mandate, the decision shocked the whole country. Some were pleasantly surprised, others furious. California Gov. Gavin Newsom called Abbott's decision "absolutely reckless."
And the rest of the fury came from the media. CNN's Chris Cillizza called it "head scratching and anti-science," particularly after new studies found coronavirus cases increasing in the Lone Star State. Cillizza determined that Gov. Abbott was acting on politics, not public safety. The Texas Tribune similarly mused that Abbott was only making this decision to appease his GOP critics.
Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) interrupted the media onslaught to give her Texas counterpart some encouragement and a virtual high five.
Keep doing the right thing @GregAbbott_TX. The media is attacking you because they can't allow freedom to succeed. It would disprove their entire agenda.— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) March 3, 2021
Gov. Noem has largely kept South Dakota open, earning raucous applause at CPAC last weekend when she said that her administration "never instituted a shelter in place order," "never mandated that people wear masks," and "never even defined what an essential business is."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not spoken directly about Abbott's decision, but for months his message has been loud and clear: Open up.
I see, in many parts of our country, a sad state of affairs: schools closed, businesses shuttered and lives destroyed. This calamitous reality is just the beginning of what will likely be long-term damage to children, families and society. pic.twitter.com/iJjwlDUK4u— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 2, 2021
In his press conference announcing he'd be lifting the restrictions, Gov. Abbott preemptively told critics that he actually did have Texans' health and safety in mind.
"Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed," he said. "Today's announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others. With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny."
In addition, Abbott noted that nearly 5.7 million vaccine shots have been administered in Texas.