Texas Mask Updates
Updated: Apr 21
Millions of Americans have lost their lives from coronavirus, and millions more have been infected but recovered. Yet, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that his state’s mask mandate would be lifted, effective March 10. The announcement came at a Chamber of Commerce event in Lubbock.
Next Tuesday, Abbott will remove mask requirements across the state, leaving the decision in the hands of individual businesses. "Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%," he said, noting that all types of business will be permitted to open to full capacity.
Abbott’s confidence in reopening seems to be founded on the idea that Texans are strategically inclined to avoiding the virus. The governor credits his flock as having "mastered the daily habits to avoid getting Covid.” He also noted that nearly 6 million Texans have received their vaccine, the state has a surplus of protective equipment, and more than 10 million Texans have gotten the virus and recovered from it.
Governor Abbott does not intend to fully eliminate the presence of masks. His order is not intended to force people to stop wearing masks, but rather to give people the option. Abbot also expects people to maintain some level of responsibility for themselves, acknowledging that grown adults are conscientious decision-makers. "Removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility and caring for your family members, friends, and others in your community," Abbott said. "People and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate," because they will naturally gravitate toward what is best and safest for them.
His order has been met with some concern. Leader of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, Jason Brewer, released a statement revealing his disagreement, saying "relaxing common-sense safety protocols like wearing masks is a mistake… going backward on safety measures will unfairly put retail employees back in the role of enforcing guidelines still recommended by the CDC." Brewer insists that regular retail employees should not be forced to police the guidelines and removing the mask mandate puts these employees at greater physical risk due to the virus and possible mask-related confrontations. He continued by also stating that this "could also jeopardize the safety of pharmacies and grocers that are gearing up as vaccination centers" and could slow the vaccine rollout.
A statement from Lina Hidalgo, a Harris County judge, shared Brewer’s sentiments. Hidalgo refers to Abbot’s order as “taking away critical public health interventions” while the country is “inching closer to the finish line of this pandemic.” Hidalgo continued, citing concerns that this is meant to be a distraction from the power grid fiasco that occurred in late February but "now is not the time to reverse the gains we've worked so hard to achieve.”
Abbott was prepared for and seemingly expected backlash, and wrote his executive order to address such a response. The verbiage allows county judges to implement covid-19 response strategies should covid-related hospitalizations in any county exceed 15% of bed capacity. Still, though, a county judge would not be able to jail anyone or impose any penalties on individuals who decided against wearing a mask. Abbott also mentioned that if restrictions are put in place, all businesses must remain open to at least 50% capacity.
The mayors of some of Texas’s most prominent cities have banded together to plead for Governor Abbott to change his mind, but have yet to receive any acknowledgment of their efforts. The mayors of Houston, Dallas, and Mission each spoke out against the executive order, and sent a letter to Abbott’s office “begging him not to do it.” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the people of his city were “dumbfounded” and referred to Abbott’s order as “self-help.”
Other states have come forward with plans to soon eliminate statewide mask mandates. Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, and Iowa will soon be following Texas’s tracks.
Large retailers Target, Kroger Brands, and CVS are among major national retailers that have outlined that they will still require masks, regardless of state mandates. The CDC is also still asking for people to stay masked. Dr. Anthony Fauci called plans to end mask mandates “ill-advised” and President Joe Biden referred to the idea as “Neanderthal thinking.”
Despite all of the influential people speaking out against the mandate Governor Abbot as well as the vast majority of the general public of Texas are tired of the masks and business closures or capacity limitations affecting their daily lives. Businesses will close permanently if they do not open to the public at full capacity very soon and despite any danger that may be present this is a calculated risk many are willing to take to preserve the Lone Star State’s economy.