by Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune.
Gov. Greg Abbott tested positive Tuesday for COVID-19, according to his office.
Abbott, who is fully vaccinated, is not experiencing any symptoms and isolating at the Governor’s Mansion, spokesperson Mark Miner said in a statement. He is getting the Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment.
“The Governor has been testing daily, and today was the first positive test result,” Miner said. “Governor Abbott is in constant communication with his staff, agency heads, and government officials to ensure that state government continues to operate smoothly and efficiently.”
Miner added that “everyone that the Governor has been in close contact with today” has been informed of his positive test. The first lady, Cecilia Abbott, tested negative.
Abbott’s positive test comes as the coronavirus pandemic is ripping through Texas again, with key metrics like daily new cases and hospitalizations reaching levels not seen since the last wave in the winter. The governor has received national attention for his refusal to fight the latest surge by allowing local governments and school districts to mandate masks or vaccines.
Abbott has kept up public appearances in recent days. He spoke Monday night at a GOP event in Collin County, later tweeting photos of him addressing a maskless crowd. Less than three hours before his diagnosis was announced Tuesday afternoon, he tweeted pictures of a meeting with guitarist Jimmie Vaughan.
Abbott received the vaccine on camera late last year in Austin, hoping to set an example. Public health officials officials have noted that while breakthrough cases like Abbott’s are occurring, vaccines are still proven to be effective at reducing the severity of the virus.
Texas has lagged nationally in getting the vaccine. As of Sunday, 45.2% of Texans were fully vaccinated.
Pandemic indicators in Texas have been sharply rising. The state reported 5,343 new cases Monday and 11,791 hospitalizations Sunday. The seven-day average of the positivity rate was 17.8% on Sunday. That was a slight dip but still well above the 10% threshold that Abbott has identified as dangerous.
Republicans like House Speaker Dade Phelan said they were praying for Abbott’s recovery Tuesday afternoon, while Democrats used his diagnosis to reinforce their criticism of his pandemic leadership. Among the Democrats responding was Julián Castro, the former presidential candidate, U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor.
“Governor Abbott has put his own Republican primary politics before the public health since day one,” Castro tweeted, sharing a video of Abbott at the Collin County gathering. “I hope he recovers quickly. I also hope he will act more responsibly on behalf of Texas children and families.”