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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This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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