OAKLAND — California Gov. Gavin Newsom chided his Texas counterpart on Tuesday for lifting coronavirus restrictions, saying the change risked a viral resurgence.
While Newsom did not specifically name Texas or its Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, it was clear Newsom’s rebuke was aimed at Abbott’s decision to lift a mask mandate and allow businesses to operate at full capacity. Earlier in the day, Newsom reacted to Abbott’s move by tweeting, “Absolutely reckless.”
“We’re never going to subscribe to the point of view of some other states. There was one large state today that said ‘no masks, everything goes back to normal’ in the midst of a pandemic,” Newsom told reporters in San Luis Obispo after touring a vaccination site, noting that Texas has higher test positivity and death rates than California.
Newsom also suggested that Abbott’s decision could lead to the type of resurgence that led the California governor to impose a second statewide lockdown that lasted nearly two months this winter.
“We’re a little more mindful and sober of the potency of these variants and mutations as well, more mindful and sober of the experience we had last summer where we moved forward and ultimately had to revert back and we don’t want to do that ever again,” Newsom said.
Public sniping between the governors of Republican-controlled Texas and Democrat-dominated California is nothing new. America’s most populous states have offered a clear policy contrast as their leaders charted starkly different courses through the coronavirus pandemic. Newsom imposed the nation’s first statewide lockdown last March, while Abbott has mirrored other Republicans in his reluctance to impose sweeping restrictions.
Indicators of the pandemic’s severity like hospitalizations and positive test numbers have declined steadily in California in recent weeks, leading Newsom to regularly herald a “bright light” of normalcy ahead. Several of California’s largest counties advanced to a less restrictive tier of limitations on public gatherings on Tuesday.
California in December had one of the highest Covid-19 case rates in the country, but the state has seen those numbers plummet in recent weeks. Texas’ daily new infection rate is double that of California’s, and the Golden State now ranks 11th lowest among U.S. states, according to the New York Times tracker.
Even as California moves in the right direction, Newsom has stressed the need for continued vigilance. “We still very much believe in the masking policies and we’re not touching them,” Newsom said on Tuesday, warning against the urge to “overly indulge in reverting back to the way things were.”
But Newsom’s handling of the pandemic also has him on the verge of facing a recall campaign. Critics have seized on fluctuating restrictions and the fact that many California children have not returned to school in nearly a year. Texas required schools to open in the fall while Newsom and California lawmakers have left that decision up to local districts, many of which are still struggling to negotiate reopening conditions with teachers unions.
Many of Newsom’s Republican foes mocked the California governor’s tweet criticizing Abbott and mentioned Newsom’s politically disastrous decision to attend an aide’s dinner at an upscale restaurant in November that propelled the recall movement.
“Because it should only be you and your buddies allowed those privileges?” Utah Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) replied Tuesday, encapsulating a critique that Newsom shirks his own rules.