A year of pandemic decision-making brought long-standing tensions between state and local leadership in Texas into sharp focus. Tensions peaked early, as a visible power struggle over decision-making authority flared up in the spring of 2020 between Gov. Greg Abbott and local officials. The two factions disagreed widely over whether mask ordinances and stay-at-home orders were needed and when. Abbott’s executive orders over the summer seemed to cool tensions, mainly because they left local leaders without much wiggle room to act independently.
But there were key moments later in the year when the rivalry resurfaced, including during the November general election and when vaccines finally became available in December to the most vulnerable Texans.
Texas Standard tracked all of these decisions between March 2020 and March 2021, and illustrated them here, in a timeline, map and chart below. It’s an effort to better understand Texas’ state-versus-local power dynamic, how it plays out across the state and, most importantly, how it has affected Texans’ health in a once-in-a-generation pandemic.