Pence Praises Texas Governor for Reopening Despite Massive Surge in COVID-19 Cases
By Jake Johnson
Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday heaped praise upon Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and said "every Texan can be proud of" his leadership in reopening one of the nation's largest economies even as lawmakers and public health experts say the governor's decision to relax social distancing guidelines led directly to the Covid-19 surge that is currently pummeling the state.
"I... want to commend the governor for—for your decisive action," Pence said during a news conference with Abbott, a Republican, at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "Reopening this economy, which began in early May, is a tribute to your leadership and the steady progress in—in putting Texas back to work."
Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, also hailed Abbott's reopening plan as "very serious and safe."
"You can see the impact of the opening plan and how it worked out," said Birx. "All of May, for almost five weeks, and then there was an inflection point."
The vice president went on to acknowledge the alarming recent spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state before applauding Abbott for announcing steps last week to slow the reopening process—steps that were criticized as inadequate to the scale of the crisis. Pence then conceded that "gatherings and meeting in certain places in communities... may well be contributing to the community spread."
"Our objective is to save lives as Texas continues to reopen your economy and help to lead this country back to work," Pence said.
"I want to commend the governor for your decisive action reopening this economy" -- Pence lauds Greg Abbott for tak… https://t.co/QrZUqDkE1W— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar)1593373203.0
"The head of the Covid Task Force just commended our governor for his role in opening the economy and creating the largest outbreak to date (until tomorrow's new record). He's grateful for Abbott's incompetence," tweeted Democratic U.S. House candidate Russell Foster, who is running to represent Texas' 4th Congressional District.
NEW from @texastribune: Texas reports sixth consecutive day of more than 5000 new #coronavirus cases… https://t.co/clt4obTFrH— Evan Smith (@Evan Smith)1593381093.0
Last Thursday, Abbott—who predicted during a private call in May that the reopening process would lead to a spike in cases—announced a temporary pause in reopening phases in an effort to "help our state corral the spread." The following day, as Covid-19 hospitalizations surpassed 5,000 and placed further strain on the state's intensive care units, Abbott ordered the closure of bars and rolled back in-person restaurant dining.
"It is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars," said Abbott.
In a column Monday morning, Texas Tribune executive editor Ross Ramsey wrote that the "Texas resurgence was predictable" and slammed Abbott and other state leaders for refusing to act until the coronavirus spike was out of control.
"Local officials who wanted stronger rules on masks and crowds and social distancing—in both big and small Texas cities and counties—were right after all," wrote Ramsey. "And Abbott, who blocked local governments from acting on their concerns about the coronavirus, waited until case numbers, infection rates, and hospitalizations jumped."
"You can get ready when a storm is coming or wait until it blows your roof off," Ramsey added. "Abbott, who's been reinstalling some of the regulatory safeguards he dismantled in May, dithered until the wind was blowing."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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