San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich blasted Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday for rescinding Texas’ mask mandate and rolling back other Covid-19 restrictions, calling the decision “mystifying,” “ridiculous” and “ignorant.”
Speaking to reporters before San Antonio’s 119-92 victory over the New York Knicks, Popovich said the coronavirus pandemic is still raging and Abbott’s actions defy science.
“I’m worried about the people in our state,” said Popovich, who has led the Spurs to five world titles. “That’s a pretty mystifying decision considering the situation that we’re all in.”
Popovich said he’s particularly concerned for business owners who want to keep customers and workers safe, but will have no authority to tell patrons to wear a mask.
“They’re trying to do a good job of keeping everybody safe. Of course they want to open up. But getting rid of masks just seems ignorant to me,” Popovich said.
“People that didn’t want to wear masks in the first place, how do the businesses get them to wear masks? Well now they don’t have to. So now there will be more infections, one would think.”
Abbott on Tuesday said his new executive order would rescind “most” of his prior Covid-19 executive orders, and that all businesses would be allowed to open “100 percent” effective March 10.
A representative for Abbott could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
While the rates of infections are generally coming down across the U.S., thousands are still dying. As of 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday, 14,065 had died from Covid-19 over the past seven days, according to CDC data.
Texas still has one of the nation’s highest rates of infection, as more than 12.3 percent of Covid-19 tests in the Lone Star state are coming back positive over the last seven days, according to Johns Hopkins University data on Wednesday. Public health officials have said local governments should use 5-percent positivity as a benchmark for safely reopening.
“But when all of a sudden we act like it’s over with, when all the science tells us the opposite,” the coach said. “It’s basically you’re saying, ‘You get inflected, you die, it’s the way it goes. We got to open up.’ That’s not the way to do it. This is really ridiculous.”
Popovich said he fears getting rid of mask mandates could lead to a surge in cases similar to the deadly fall and winter spike, linked to holiday travel and lax adherence to safeguards.
“It’s like we have to have instant gratification,” Popovich said. “We already went through this once and now we’re going to do it again.”
On Monday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky strongly cautioned against the very rollbacks that Abbott was implementing.
“Please hear me clearly,” Walensky said. “At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard earned ground we have gained.”
President Joe Biden echoed those concerns on Tuesday, even as he announced the U.S. will have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for every adult by the end of May.
“This fight is far from over,” Biden said. “Though we celebrate the news … I urge all Americans, please keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced, wear masks.”