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U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar says Gov. Greg Abbott's leadership during coronavirus "a total failure"

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U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 12, 2019. Matt McClain/Pool via REUTERS

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, on Monday called Gov. Greg Abbott's leadership during the coronavirus pandemic a "total failure," saying he rushed to allow Texas businesses to reopen before properly dealing with the health crisis.

During a live interview with The Texas Tribune's Abby Livingston, Escobar said Abbott lacked a robust plan from the beginning when it came to testing for the virus. "You have to deal with the health crisis before you can build the confidence necessary to address the economic crisis," she said.

Abbott's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. As he began to allow businesses to reopen, Abbott focused on positive figures related to the percentage of tests in the state that come back positive and the percentage of patients with COVID-19 who are hospitalized. Both figures are now rising. Abbott is scheduled to hold a news conference on the rising cases at 2 p.m. CST.

Escobar, who said she has been in contact with small business owners, said people "don't feel comfortable yet" about going back to their normal lives. She added that Congress has done everything possible to help state and local governments during times of "economic duress" to give them time to build up a strong testing and tracing strategy, which Escobar said Abbott did not have before reopening the state.

As an example, she mentioned the $2 trillion CARES Act, which supported the medical response to the pandemic, and helped businesses remain afloat long enough to avoid more layoffs. She also noted the HEROES Act, a $3.4 trillion coronavirus relief bill which stands for Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, that would provide support to state and local governments who are suffering from revenue loss. The HEROES Act has been approved by the House, but has not yet made it into the Senate for voting.

"You've got to create the confidence that you will be safe and secure, and that confidence will help drive an economic recovery," Escobar said. "Not everyone is going to feel comfortable going out and helping rebuild the economy until we address the health crisis on the front end."

In the interview, Escobar has said that Abbott's "response to addressing the needs of vulnerable communities was far too slow," specifically mentioning efforts related to prisons, nursing homes, and communities of color. She noted comments by Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who said Latino and African American communities are as at risk and vulnerable as nursing homes.

"That means you've got to test as much in minority communities as you test in nursing homes ... you flood those communities with resources," Escobar said.