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Timeline of Irresponsibility

The many times Texas' leadership has failed us.

Published onMar 18, 2021
Timeline of Irresponsibility
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January 2020

January 21, 2020: First novel coronavirus case detected in the United States of America.1

March 2020

March 4, 2020: First coronavirus case in Texas.2

March 11, 2020: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 pandemic.3

March 13, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declares a state of disaster (enabling federal funds to flow to the state) and halts elective surgeries (including abortions).4

March 16, 2020: First COVID-19 death in Texas.5

March 19, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues first coronavirus-related executive order shutting down government and businesses and banning gatherings.6

March 23, 2020: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick offers to sacrifice Texas seniors to coronavirus in order to reopen the Texas economy.7

April 2020

April 14, 2020: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, under indictment for nearly six years, issues a letter to Texas House of Representatives Elections Committee Chair Rep. Stephanie Klick stating his 鈥渦nofficial opinion鈥 that 鈥渇ear of contracting COVID-19 unaccompanied by a qualifying sickness or physical condition does not constitute a disability under the Election Code for purposes of receiving a ballot by mail.鈥8 President Donald Trump halts funding for the World Health Organization.9

April 15, 2020: U.S. District Court Judge Tim Sulak rules in favor of allowing all Texans to vote by mail during coronavirus pandemic.10

April 17, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues executive order announcing the establishment of the 45-member Governor鈥檚 Strike Force to Open Texas and the beginning of the first phased reopening of Texas businesses.11

April 23, 2020: U.S. President Donald J. Trump suggests people infected with coronavirus get an "injection" of disinfectant as a deterrent to the virus during his daily briefing.12

April 24, 2020: Austin police officers shoot and kill unarmed Mike Ramos.13

Cover image of The Governor鈥檚 Report to Open Texas

Cover image of The Governor鈥檚 Report to Open Texas

April 27, 2020: Governor鈥檚 Strike Force to Open Texas releases The Governor鈥檚 Report to Open Texas: Texans Helping Texans with health and safety guidelines for individuals, employers, employees, the business sector and low-COVID counties along with celebratory biographies of the business leaders on the strike force and self-congratulatory reprisals of Gov. Abbott鈥檚 (non-)response so far.14


May 2020

May 1, 2020: Texas begins Phase I of reopening.15 Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issues letter to county judges and election officers threatening prosecution for encouraging Texans to vote by mail.16

Excerpt from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton鈥檚 letter to county election officials.

May 5, 2020: Audio leaked of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledging reopening will increase transmission of COVID-19.17

Leaked Audio (Full): Gov. Abbott Knows Reopening Will Cause an Increase in Infection Rate for Texans

May 18, 2020: Texas begins Phase II of reopening.

鈥淥ur goal is to find ways to coexist with COVID-19 as safely as possible.鈥

鈥 Texas Gov. Greg Abbott18

May 19, 2020: U.S. District Judge Fred Biery rules that all state voters regardless of age qualify for a mail-in ballot during the coronavirus pandemic.19

May 25, 2020: George Floyd murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis.20 No arrests are made.

May 27, 2020: Texas Supreme Court opines in official ruling that most Texans won鈥檛 get coronavirus.21

Excerpt from Texas Supreme Court opinion.

May 29, 2020: Derek Chauvin finally arrested after worldwide protests.22 President Donald Trump terminates U.S. relationship with World Health Organization.23

May 29-31, 2020: Anti-racist protests break out in response to George Floyd鈥檚 murder and the failure of public officials to arrest the police officers involved:

Texans聽protested in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth聽throughout the weekend, spurred by the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in Minneapolis police custody Monday. Floyd had been聽a longtime resident of Houston's Third Ward.24

May 31, 2020: Gov. Greg Abbott declares the entire state of Texas a disaster in response to protests in some cities, allowing him to designate federal law enforcement officers to perform the duties of peace officers in Texas.25

June 2020

June 3, 2020: Texas begins Phase III of reopening.26

June 25, 2020: Elective surgeries (including abortions) suspended in Texas metros due to coronavirus overloading hospitals.

June 26, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reverses reopening state after a tremendous increase in coronavirus cases and deaths.

July 2020

July 2, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott finally issues statewide mask order for counties with over 20 cases of COVID-19.27

August 2020

August 17, 2020: 10,000th Texan dies of COVID-19.28

September 2020

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott quietly disbands his Strike Force to Open Texas.29

September 17, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott begins reopening Texas businesses again.30

October 2020

October 14, 2020: Texas bars allowed to reopen.31

November 2020

November 3, 2020: President Trump fails to win reelection as president but refuses to concede. Texas voter turnout best in nearly three decades.32 Thus explaining Republican attempts to pass voter-suppression legislation in 2021.

November 16, 2020: Texas becomes first state to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases.33

January 2021

January 6, 2021: Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol after a pro-Trump rally, which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton attended.34

Graphic Videos Detail Violence at US Capitol on January 6 - WATCH LIVE | Voice of America - English. https://www.voanews.com/usa/us-politics/graphic-videos-detail-violence-us-capitol-january-6-watch-live. Accessed 15 June 2021.

January 28, 2021: President Joe Biden revives U.S. funding for World Health Organization.35

February 2021

February 10, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott鈥檚 office informed of looming natural gas shortages by Public Utility Commission of Texas Chair聽DeAnne Walker.36

February 11, 2021: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announces plan to penalize environmentally sensitive investors.37

February 13-17, 2021: Winter Storm Uri strikes Texas causing cascading failures of energy and public health infrastructure (gas, electric, water). Death toll: at least 210 people. (State鈥檚 initial count was 111.)38 A tally by the Houston Chronicle finds almost double the number of deaths.39 A BuzzFeed News data analysis estimates 700 deaths from the storm.40

February 16, 2021: The Texas Public Utility Commission orders that wholesale electricity prices in the state should be set at $9,000 per megawatt-hour.41

That鈥檚 exactly what happened: energy prices skyrocketed. Now, as the dust is settling and the Texas Legislature has adjourned after passing several bills that aimed to fix the state鈥檚 fragile electric grid, three truths have become clear: the state鈥檚 policymakers have not done enough to ensure the resilience and reliability of the grid, the February 16 PUC order kept electricity prices far too high for far too long, and Texas ratepayers will ultimately be saddled with about $37.7 billion in excess energy costs.42

Cost of Texas鈥 2021 Deep Freeze Justifies Weatherization. https://www.dallasfed.org:443/research/economics/2021/0415. Accessed 16 Apr. 2021.

February 17, 2021: Gov. Greg Abbott falsely blames renewable energy for power outages in Texas.43 U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, flies to Cancun, Mexico to escape freezing weather, leaving his constituents (and pet dog) behind.44 Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in Salt Lake City, Utah.45 Republican Texas state Rep. Gary Gates abandons constituents via private jet to Orlando, Florida.46

鈥淭exans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.鈥

鈥 Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry47

February 17-18, 2021: 聽ERCOT鈥檚 visitor logs show Ryland Ramos, Gov. Greg Abbott鈥檚 top energy policy adviser, and Abbott-appointed Public Utility Commission chair DeAnn Walker 鈥 along with top regulatory officials from Centerpoint Energy, Oncor, AEP and Texas-New Mexico Power Company 鈥 signed in at the agency鈥檚 operations center in Taylor, where ERCOT鈥檚 high-tech control room handling the flow of power to most Texans, is located at about10 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17, and stayed there until 8:49 a.m. the next day.

The timeline in the visitor logs means the Abbott aide was on the scene when ERCOT decided 鈥 just before midnight Wednesday 鈥 to quit ordering rolling power outages and then, in the wee hours of Thursday, to leave the maximum prices for electricity in place.48

February 18, 2021: At least 3.4 million Texans without power.49

February 19, 2021: 13.5 million Texans experience water disruption.50 Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton still in Salt Lake City, Utah.51

March 2021

March 2, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifts statewide mask mandate and 鈥渞eopens Texas 100 percent.鈥52

March 9, 2021: Texas Public Utility Commission Chairman Arthur D鈥橝ndrea, who was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, tells investors on a Bank of America Securities-hosted call to expect little improvement to the Texas energy grid and that he would attempt to protect their windfall profits from Winter Storm Uri.53 The call was closed to the public and news media and later leaked to Texas Monthly.54

March 10, 2021: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatens to sue the city of Austin and Travis County if they don鈥檛 lift requirements for mask-wearing inside local businesses.55

Image of excerpt from letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to Austin and Travis County leaders.

Excerpt of letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to Austin and Travis County leaders.


March 11, 2021: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sues to block聽Austin and Travis County pandemic orders聽requiring employees and customers to wear a face-covering in local businesses.56

March 12, 2021: State District Judge Lora Livingston declines Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton鈥檚 request to block Austin mask mandates until a full hearing.57

March 25, 2021: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton refuses to release emails and text messages he sent during the rally in Washington, D.C. that resulted in the January 6th Capitol insurrection.58 U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, refuses to wear mask during press conference.59

Image of an excerpt from Houston Chronicle editorial, March 30, 2021

March 26, 2021: State District Judge Lora Livingston rules against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and in favor of allowing Austin鈥檚 mask mandate to continue.60

March 29, 2021: President Joe Biden urges states to reinstate and/or continue mask mandates.61

April 2021

April 1, 2021: Republicans in the Texas Senate pass voter-suppression legislation.62 Senate Bill 7 would:

  • Limit early voting to the hours of 6 AM to 9 PM (thus making it more difficult for shift workers and others on non-9-to-5 schedules to vote);

  • Ban drive-thru voting;

  • Prohibit local elections officials from encouraging qualified (read: disabled and elderly) voters to apply for mail-in ballots (thus ensuring no one ever learns of the opportunity ever again);

  • Strengthen the authority of partisan poll watchers to challenge voters, including allowing them to video voters receiving assistance in filling out their ballots.63

May 2021

May 17, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott prematurely ends the state鈥檚 participation in the federally funded pandemic-related unemployment programs effective June 26th.64聽 Texas聽will stop participating in ARPA programs, including Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation Program (MEUC).聽This includes the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the FPUC.65 U.S. Federal Reserve issues results of latest Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020, revealing a quarter of American adults worse off at the end of 2020 than at the same time in 2019.66 Over a third of Americans reported not being able to afford to cover a $400 emergency with on-hand cash or its equivalent.67


Image from Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, 2013-2020. Accessed 28 May 2021.
Screenshot of Email from Texas Workforce Commission announcing Gov. Abbott鈥檚 termination of enhanced unemployment benefits for coronavirus-affected workers.

Screenshot of Email from Texas Workforce Commission announcing Gov. Abbott鈥檚 termination of enhanced unemployment benefits for coronavirus-affected workers. / William O. Pate II, May 19, 2021

May 18, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues executive order barring state and local government entities (including counties, cities, school districts and public health authorities) and officials from requiring people to wear masks. Failure to comply can result in a $1,000 fine, he notes in the executive order.68 Mask ban becomes effective on May 22, 2021. School districts can require them until June 5.

May 27, 2021: Texas Legislature ends 87th Legislative Session without meaningfully addressing health or energy crises facing the state.

Even as officials and statisticians continued to tally the dead from the February blackouts, legislators rushed forward with promises that they would make certain the grid never failed again. But the House and Senate could not agree on what measures to pursue. And both bodies were hamstrung by their deference to energy executives and investors, and especially natural gas producers. A slate of bills languished until the final Sunday of the session. The聽ones that passed聽would overhaul the state鈥檚 Public Utility Commission and require weatherization of power plants, transmission lines, and the natural gas facilities that provide the fuel to generate power鈥攂ut they do not specify聽how to pay for it. Nor do they address how to pay for the financial losses power companies faced in the storm鈥攍osses that Texas households and businesses will likely be footing for years to come.聽69

May 28, 2021: U.S. Senate Republicans block the creation of a commission to investigate January 6th insurrection at U.S. Capitol after Republican U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asks 鈥渁 personal favor鈥 of fellow Republicans to vote against it.70

May 31, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott threatens via Twitter to veto funding for legislative staff in revenge for Democrats breaking quorum to kill voter-suppression legislation under consideration by the Texas House of Representatives.

Image 1
Image 2

June 2021

Of nearly 10,000 bills and resolutions filed this session, about 3,800 were passed. The governor vetoed 21 pieces of legislation this session. In each of the last two regular sessions, he vetoed about 50.

鈥 Allie Morris, 鈥淔rom backing the blue to the 鈥楽tar-Spangled Banner鈥: Bill that are becoming law in Texas,鈥 Dallas Morning News, 21 June 2021

June 1, 2021: U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, calls concerns about climate change 鈥渁 cult鈥 at the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Energy Summit.71 Gov. Greg Abbott signs House Bill 1900, which financially penalizes cities that cut or reallocate their police budgets; Senate Bill 23, which forces counties with populations of 1 million or more to receive voter approval before decreasing their law enforcement budgets; and House Bill 2366, which increases penalties for interfering with or harming law enforcement. Senate Bill 68, which would have required peace officers to intervene and report when a fellow officer uses excessive force was left unsigned.72 Significantly, Abbott鈥檚 signature on HB 1900 law restores funds, personnel and authority for tasks earlier removed from Austin Police Department by the city council.

Under that law 鈥 which takes effect Sept. 1, after the City Council adopts the budget in August but before FY 22 begins Oct. 1 鈥 APD's budget this year has to be at least $432 million; otherwise, the state can siphon off Austin's sales tax revenue and prevent it from increasing property taxes or utility rates. The statute would also not only prevent Austin from annexing any territory until it made APD whole, but would require the city to hold disannexation elections in each area annexed in the last 30 years.73

June 2, 2021: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tells Steve Bannon that former President聽Donald Trump聽would have lost in Texas in the 2020 election if his office had not successfully blocked counties from mailing out applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters.74

June 8, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declares that legislation passed during the session 鈥渇ixes all of the flaws鈥 of the Texas energy grid.

鈥淏ottom line is that everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.鈥

鈥 Texas Gov. Greg Abbott75

June 14, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs Senate Bill 6, which shields companies from lawsuits for pandemic-related injuries or deaths and makes it more difficult to sue health care providers or businesses for exposures to illnesses arising from COVID-19 or future pandemics.76

June 15, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs House Bill 1925, which is a statewide camping ban, making it a Class C misdemeanor to camp in unapproved public spaces.77

June 17, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs Senate Bill 1111, prohibiting Texans from registering to vote using a commercial post office box (as many homeless do).78

June 18, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoes funding for the legislative branch in revenge for Texas House Democrats who broke quorum to prevent Senate Bill 7 from reaching the floor.79

June 22, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues call for first special legislative session to begin on July 8, 2021, with legislative priorities to be added later.80

July 2021

July 4, 2021: 50 percent of eligible Texans are fully vaccinated, according to The Dallas Morning News鈥 data.81

July 7, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues agenda for first called special session that focuses on restricting voting rights, blocking refugees from seeking asylum at the border and limiting the topics taught in public schools.82 (Not included in the call are public health or energy infrastructure.)

COVID-19 Risk-Based Chart - Vaccine Edition from Austin Public Health, http://www.austintexas.gov/page/covid-19-risk-based-guidelines, accessed 23 July 2021.

July 23, 2021: After hospitalizations increase with the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, Austin reenters Stage 4 of its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines.83

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interpretive summary for the week states:

The United States is once again seeing a rise in COVID-19聽cases,聽hospitalizations, and聽deaths. As of July 22, 35% of U.S. counties are experiencing high聽levels of community transmission. COVID-19 cases are on the rise in nearly

90% of U.S. jurisdictions, and we are seeing outbreaks in parts of the country that have low聽vaccination聽coverage. These worrisome trends are due, in part, to the rapid spread of the highly transmissible B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on healthcare resources and could lead to more hospitalizations and deaths.

Estimated Proportions of SARS-CoV-2 Lineages for Health and Human Services Region 6, which includes Texas. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/. Accessed 23 July 2021.

An increase in COVID-19 cases also creates more opportunities for the virus to mutate, which could lead to the emergence of new聽variants. Variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are now responsible for all cases in the United States. The original strain is no longer detected among variants circulating throughout the country. The B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant is now the predominant variant in the United States, making up an estimated聽83.2%聽of recent U.S. cases. The best way to slow the emergence of new variants is to reduce the spread of infection by taking measures to protect yourself, including getting a vaccine when it鈥檚 available to you.

COVID-19 is now a preventable disease. The COVID-19聽vaccines聽authorized for use in the United States are safe and are effective against B.1.617.2 and other variants. If you receive a聽Pfizer-BioNTech聽or聽Moderna聽COVID-19 vaccine, you will need聽2 shots聽to get the most protection. You should get your second shot even if you have side effects after the first shot, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you聽not to get it. If you are only partially vaccinated, you are more likely to get infected, get sick, and spread the virus to other people. When you are聽fully vaccinated, you are protected against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

Note to readers:聽To find a vaccine provider near you, visit聽Vaccines.gov聽or your聽state or local public health department聽website. You can also text your zip code to 438829 to get 3 locations near you with vaccines in stock. If you prefer your information in Spanish, text your zip code to 822862. You can also call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline at 1-800-232-0233 to get help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages. It also has a TTY line to support access by hearing impaired callers. If you or someone you know is hesitant about COVID-19 vaccination, CDC has information and answers to聽frequently asked questions聽to help inform the decision.84

July 29, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues Executive Order 38 banning governmental entities from mandating COVID-19 vaccination or proof of vaccination to receive benefits or services (鈥渧accine passports鈥) and overriding any locally issued COVID-19-related restrictions, including operating restrictions on businesses and requirements to wear masks. (Note schools cannot require masks to be worn but jails can.) He also removes the ability of local governments to jail those who violate public health orders.85

July 30, 2021: 900th COVID-19 death in Austin-Travis County.86

August 2021

August 2, 2021: State of Texas denies requests from hospitals for additional staffing as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge across the state.87

August 4, 2021: Analysis shows Texas Republican leaders received significantly larger campaign donations from energy companies after the legislative session in what 鈥渓ooks like a reward for not passing more stringent regulations and raises questions about whether lawmakers let the oil, gas and the broader energy industry off easy for its massive failures.鈥88

August 9, 2021:聽Republican-controlled Texas Supreme Court declines to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott鈥檚 veto that wiped out funding for the Legislature for the next two years.89

August 10, 2021:聽Austin and surrounding area down to two intensive care unit (ICU) beds. Texas reaches lowest number of available ICU beds during the state has had entire pandemic. 鈥淩egion O 鈥 which is made up of 2.3 million people in 11 counties: Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Lee, Llano and San Saba 鈥 had only two staffed ICU beds. . . . According to data, among the total hospitalized patients more than 80% are not vaccinated. Fully and partially vaccinated residents have been hospitalized but at 15.5% and 3.7% respectively.鈥澛 School districts and cities actively defy Gov. Abbott鈥檚 orders by requiring masks be worn in schools and public buildings.90 State District Judge Antonia 鈥淭oni鈥 Arteaga issues a temporary restraining order blocking Gov. Abbott鈥檚 order, clearing the way for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District to require students and employees in public and private schools to wear masks and to quarantines in cases where unvaccinated students were exposed to people found to have COVID-19.91 Judge Tonya Parker rules that Gov. Greg Abbott鈥檚 executive order on mask mandates is 鈥渘ot [a] necessary action to combat the pandemic鈥, and agreed to a temporary restraining order that will allow Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins to require face coverings.92

August 11, 2021:聽Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton file their first court action to strike down mask mandates enacted by local officials in defiance of Abbott鈥檚 ban on them.93

August 19, 2021:聽Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick falsely blames the most recent resurgence of COVID-19 patients on Black Americans.

Democrats like to blame Republicans on (low vaccination rates). Well, the biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked, over 90% of them vote for Democrats.

鈥擳exas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick94

August 25, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues executive order barring vaccination mandates and proof of vaccination to access services (vaccine passports鈥), adding the latter to his second special session call.95

Despart, Zach. 鈥淣ew Chart Reveals Sobering Look at COVID鈥檚 Impact on Texas Deaths.鈥 Houston Chronicle, 28 June 2021, https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/health/article/The-impact-of-COVID-19-on-Texas-deaths-in-one-16275226.php.

56,345 鈥 Total Texas deaths from COVID-19 as of 7:22 AM CT on August 28, 2021.96


Additional Resources:




William O. Pate II is the founding editor and publisher of San Antonio Review. He lives in Austin.

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