UnidosUS President and CEO: Texas Governor ‘Chose to Risk People’s Lives’

Lifting the mask mandate and opening businesses too soon will cause even more suffering for Latino essential workers

WASHINGTON, DC—After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that Texas would lift its mask mandate and allow businesses to reopen at 100 percent capacity, UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía issued the following statement:

“Opening business at 100 percent and lifting the mask mandate is yet another sign of Gov. Abbott’s lack of leadership and poor decision-making that fails to take into consideration the lives and health of Texans. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has demonstrated a reckless disregard for science and common sense.

“What the governor doesn’t acknowledge is that essential workers, many of whom are Latino, now have to carry yet another burden. They are already overworked, underpaid, and have been working in high-risk situations for a year. And now they’re losing what little support they had from the state to protect themselves at work. Instead of listening to the experts, the governor is—again—recklessly endangering the lives of our working families and most vulnerable communities.

“COVID-19 has killed more than 40,000 Texans already—47 percent of whom are Hispanic. Hispanics make up 40 percent of the population and account for only 20 percent of vaccinations, a number that is far too low. The number of people killed will, however, go up at an even higher rate unless Texans manage to keep themselves and their families safe.

“The governor had a choice. He could have encouraged Texans to stay safe and be responsible, to wear their mask and avoid large social gatherings, and worked to ensure that vaccines reach everyone in the state, including in communities of color.

“Instead, he chose to risk people’s lives, appease his most hardline supporters and distract from the state’s failure to handle last month’s winter freeze that killed more than 70 Texans.

“This is an egregiously irresponsible, immoral, and short-sighted decision that will make it harder for not only Texas but the entire community to end the pandemic. For the good of his constituents and all residents of his state, Abbott must rescind this order immediately.”


  • Texas ranks 45th in vaccine distribution.
  • Even in major cities like Houston, lack of access paired with distrust is affecting Hispanic communities getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Houston is the first U.S. city to record all major COVID strains. 
  • UnidosUS has operated in Texas for nearly 50 years, and is currently focusing its policy, advocacy and programmatic work on increasing health care access, reducing barriers to SNAP and increasing culturally responsive and linguistically appropriate outreach, education and enrollment to all Texans eligible for assistance programs.
  • UnidosUS’s ongoing advocacy work in Texas continues to be a priority, and with a public health and economic lens—and in partnership with our 29 community-based Affiliates across the State—it will continue to hold Gov. Abbott accountable for his handling of the pandemic.