Which policy is more Neanderthal in pandemic control — allowing Texans to make up their own minds about masking up, or releasing COVID-positive illegal immigrants into the state? There might arguably be a bit of glass-house stone-throwing in both directions here, but Greg Abbott didn’t start the Neanderthal showdown, either (via Townhall):
“Two things, Brian, first, obviously it is not the type of thing that a president should be saying, but second, he kind of said it on the worst day he could have. Because the same day he said that, in Texas, the Biden administration was releasing illegal immigrants into our communities who had COVID,” Abbott said.
“The Biden administration was spreading COVID in south Texas yesterday because of their lack of constraint of testing and quarantining, people come across the border illegally. The Biden administration was exposing Texas to COVID,” Abbott continued. “That is a neanderthal type approach dealing with the COVID situation.”
They weren’t just going to Texas, either. While the Biden administration released them in Texas, NBC reported that these COVID-positive immigrants had destinations across the US. The only quibble might be that ICE may not have known of their COVID-positive status, but only because they might not be checking. Guess who does check? Texans:
Other migrant families who also said they had tested positive were waiting to go to other destinations: North Carolina, Maryland and New Jersey.
The city of Brownsville administers these rapid tests at the bus station, after migrant families are released by the Border Patrol. A spokesperson for Brownsville confirmed that, since they began doing these tests Jan. 25, 108 migrants have tested positive for Covid-19, which is 6.3 percent of those who took the test.
Gee, maybe a less Neanderthal approach would be to test first and keep those who are contagious from getting out into the general population. Once released from ICE custody, however, those options disappear:
In response to Noticias Telemundo Investiga, a spokesperson for the city said in an email that Brownsville does not have the authority to retain these migrants who plan to travel to dozens of cities throughout the country. The city assured that municipal workers recommend to those who test positive to keep quarantine as indicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The city employees suggest to families they go to nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits in the the border area who can take them in and isolate them in order to keep quarantine.
This creates the issue that Karen Townsend wrote about earlier this afternoon. The potential for seeding super-spreaders across the US is so obvious that, er, even a Neanderthal could probably suss it out without too much effort. Be sure to read her very detailed post about the risks being exponentially increased by these releases in Brownsville.
Anyway, that doesn’t ipso facto make Abbott’s rescission of the mask mandate wise either. It might well be too early to lift this requirement, given the level of transmission in Texas at the moment and the near end of the issue with vaccinations already under way. Why not just wait until May? One reason has to be the sudden talk about making masking and social distancing the “new normal,” which has only fueled the suspicion that Washington elites and unelected experts just don’t want to give up the control they have gained in the pandemic crisis. It’s almost certainly no coincidence that Abbott and other governors have decided to end that talk by refusing to mandate now.
That doesn’t mean the same thing as “don’t wear masks,” Abbott tells Brian Kilmeade, which is true. Abbott says he wants to send the message that the government trusts Texans to follow “best practices,” and astutely points out that the superspreader events have been home socializing (and travel). True enough, but removing the mandate will increase pressure on business owners to stop applying their own mask requirements, which kept them from also hosting superspreaders. Big chains like CVS, Target, and so on won’t have to worry about consumer pressure, but small businesses will, and the lack of a mandate as back-up puts them in a tough spot.
All of this demonstrates the complexity of mandates, which is why calling Abbott’s decision “Neanderthal” was foolish and unnecessarily adversarial. But Abbott’s right in pointing out that Biden’s a hypocrite with his new immigrant-release policy in Texas without even checking to make sure they’re not contagious — which is one of the basic reasons for border control.