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In August 2021, as the state of Texas faced another surge of COVID-19 cases, a photograph started circulating online that supposedly showed body bags being transported in a truck bearing a campaign logo for Gov. Gregg Abbott:
This is a digitally altered image. The original photograph truly shows bodies being moved from a refrigerated mortuary truck, but the “Abbott 2022” logo does not appear in the original photo.
The doctored version shown above was created from a picture taken by Reuters photographer Ivan Pierre Aguirre in November 2020 in El Paso, Texas. The original photograph was presented with the following caption:
El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office staff help move bodies that are in bags labeled “Covid” from refrigerated trailers into the morgue office amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in El Paso, Texas, U.S. November 23, 2020. REUTERS/Ivan Pierre Aguirre
The genuine photograph was recirculated on social media in August 2021 after it was included in an NBC News report about Texas requesting additional mortuary trailers to deal with a surge of COVID-19 across the state. NBC News reported:
With Covid-19 surging across the state, Texas has requested five mortuary trailers from the federal government in anticipation of an influx of dead bodies, state officials told NBC News.
The mortuary trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be stationed in San Antonio and sent around the state at the request of local officials.
Department of State Health Services spokesperson Doug Loveday said the trailers were requested Aug. 4 after officials reviewed data about increasing deaths as a third wave of the coronavirus struck the state.
“We are anticipating a need within the state of Texas for these trailers as Covid cases and hospitalizations continue to increase,” Loveday said.
Many people responded to tweets about this news by posting this digitally altered image. A few days later, this picture received more social media traction when it was captioned on Facebook: “Picture of the Week from Texas!”
This altered image was often accompanied by criticisms about Abbott’s decisions to prohibit mask and vaccine mandates in the state. The New York Times reported at the end of July 2021:
Many states, cities, businesses and schools have been scrambling to institute new mandates since Tuesday, when the federal health authorities recommended that even fully vaccinated people should wear masks again in public indoor spaces in Delta-variant hot spots and urged universal masking in schools.
In an executive order issued on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of the nation’s second-largest state, prohibited local governments and state agencies from mandating vaccines, saying that protection against the virus should be a matter of personal responsibility, not forced by a government edict.
Montgomery, Dave. “Gov. Greg Abbott Bars Mandates for Vaccinations and Masks in Texas.” The New York Times, 1 Aug. 2021. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/31/world/greg-abbott-mask-vaccine-mandate.html.
Svitek, Patrick. “Gov. Greg Abbott Bans Government Mandates on COVID-19 Vaccines Regardless of Whether They Have Full FDA Approval.” The Texas Tribune, 25 Aug. 2021, https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/25/texas-covid-19-vaccine-mandates-ban-greg-abbott/.
“Texas Requests Five Mortuary Trailers in Anticipation of Covid Deaths.” NBC News, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/texas-requests-five-mortuary-trailers-anticipation-covid-deaths-n1276924. Accessed 26 Aug. 2021.