Former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro said Texas' alarming coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations are the result of a "slow response" from national and state leaders including Gov. Greg Abbott.
"Essentially this is an issue of policymakers choosing an ideology over public health and science," said Castro, the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, during a live interview Wednesday with his brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, hosted by Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith.
On Tuesday, the state reported 10,745 new cases of COVID-19 and that 19.2% of total hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. At least 3,322 Texans have died from the new coronavirus.
Julián Castro said Abbott made three consequential mistakes: reopening the state too early, not pushing hard enough to get adequate testing or contact tracing, and banning local officials from requiring masks in the earlier months of the pandemic. Abbott issued an executive order that initially banned local leaders from mandating masks with penalties for individuals. As cases picked up, he later said businesses could mandate masks, and this month he instituted a statewide mask requirement.
Julián Castro added that Abbott's plan to reopen Texas businesses so early to save the state's economy actually ended up hurting it more.
On Friday, as Texas continued to break records for new coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations, Abbott said "things will get worse" and if people continue disregarding his mask mandate, the next step to slow down the spread of the coronavirus will be another economic lockdown. Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
"If we'd had a better federal response and state response, perhaps we would have already been around the quarter on this," Julián Castro said.
Joaquin Castro said the number of beds, hospitals and infections could have also been significantly reduced.
"We're not saying that there would have been no consequences," Joaquin Castro said.
Abbott has not had the "fortitude to stand up" throughout the pandemic and say he will follow what science recommends in order to do what is best for the public health, Julián Castro said.
"The state has not committed — I won't say a single penny — but hardly any money at all on the coronavirus response. All of the money that has been used [has] been money that's come from the federal government," Joaquin Castro said. "Why hasn't the governor taken the lead and use what he can of the rainy day fund?"