Lifting mask order would be 'premature and harmful,' Turner and Hidalgo tell Gov. Abbott

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021
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Before the governor made official on Tuesday his decision to lift COVID-19 restrictions, both Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo jointly called lifting virus prevention orders, namely the mask mandate, "premature and harmful."

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It wasn't too long ago - four days, in fact - that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner shared the same space inside the county's emergency management headquarters as part of President Joe Biden's visit to the state in the wake of the winter storm.

Hidalgo and Turner have been at odds with Abbott throughout the course of the pandemic, with the Houston-area leaders and the Texas governor differing approaches to control the spread of the coronavirus.

SEE MORE: All state virus mandates lifted effective next week, Gov. Abbott says

Before the governor made official on Tuesday his decision to lift COVID-19 restrictions, both Turner and Hidalgo jointly called lifting virus prevention orders, namely the mask mandate, "premature and harmful."

WATCH: Lifting mask order would be 'harmful,' Turner and Hidalgo tell Abbott

SEE BELOW: Houston Mayor Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's joint letter to the governor

In the wake of the announcement, Hidalgo called the governor's decision "wishful thinking," and at worst, "a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of state oversight of our power grid." She said, in full:

"Taking away critical public health interventions that we know are working won't make our community safer, nor will it hasten our return to normalcy. Quite the opposite, every time public health measures have been pulled back, we've seen a spike in hospitalizations. If we start the climb now, we'd be starting from the highest starting point ever when it comes to our hospital population, an unacceptable and dangerous proposition. With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, we're inching closer to the finish line of this pandemic - now is not the time to reverse the gains we've worked so hard to achieve. At best, today's decision is wishful thinking. At worst, it is a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of state oversight of our power grid."

SEE ALSO: 'This will kill Texans:' Texas Democratic chair says of Abbott reopening businesses, ending mask mandate

Hidalgo then pleaded with residents to not let up.

Turner echoed Hidalgo's suggestion that Abbott's announcement was a way to deflect from the leadership failures. Turner added all city employees in city facilities are required to wear their masks well past next Wednesday.

"I don't feel defeated. I feel disappointed about the governor's decision," Turner said. "I am disgusted by things that are foreseeable and preventable. And I am disgusted by leadership 10 years ago that could have taken prudent steps but didn't. And now there are thousands with busted water pipes and no water."

As of late, Hidalgo has been praised for her actions against the virus, specifically calling for a mask mandate within the county months ahead of one established by the state.

WATCH: Mayor Turner 'disappointed' by Abbott lifting mask order

Still, the county judge has received pushback from the more conservative members of her community regarding restrictions.

On Monday, ahead of the governor's announcement, Turner, who as Houston's city leader aligned closely with Hidalgo, said any easing of restrictions too early would be a mistake.

While lifting the mask mandate appears to be a point of contention, especially as the coronavirus seems more apt to survive through variants, Abbott has cited the growing accessibility of vaccines, especially after the FDA's emergency-use authorization of Johnson & Johnson's single-shot dosages.

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