Is Gov. Abbott right to reopen Texas and end mask mandate?
- As of Wednesday, March 3, there have been 2.6 million coronavirus cases in Texas, with 44,453 reported deaths.
- Gregory Wayne Abbott is the 48th governor of Texas, serving since 2015. He was labeled “best governor in the nation” in 2020, known for his commitment to community, job creation, and quality healthcare. Previously, he was the longest-serving Attorney General of Texas.
- Gov. Abbott lifted Texas’ mask mandate on Wednesday March 2, in weeks prior to spring break holiday. He stated that the recent mask mandate “does not abandon the safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year.” Of 30 million residents, 7 million vaccine shots have been administered.
- Texas’ Department of State Health Services reported 7,146 hospitalizations on February 21, which is the “lowest it has been since the 7,083 hospitalizations on Nov. 12. Hospitalizations have been steadily dropping since mid-January.”
It is undeniably time to reopen the nation and put the mask mandates and business shutdowns behind us. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is making this happen. And he is leading the country in having Texas be the first state to completely reopen, freeing its 29 million residents from authoritarian COVID-19 regulations.
The toll that COVID-related shutdowns have had on the nation is staggering, affecting local and national economies. While some businesses will never recover, allowing the state to reopen is a step in the right direction in slowing the spread of the associated economic plague. And the devastating societal impact that the past year's restrictions have had on mental health is yet another reason to reopen.
Given that the number of COVID-19 cases has been dropping throughout the nation--and that there is now a vaccine available for susceptible populations--there is no reason why any state should remain closed. Critics may claim that this is a 'death sentence' for the people of Texas; however, there will likely be individuals and even entire communities that continue to wear masks and embrace the 'new normal' indefinitely, such as what became of many Asian countries following the SARS outbreak. However, this does not need to be the case for any state.
Most notably and importantly, Texas has state's rights under the 10th Amendment, giving it autonomy, regardless of what the rest of the nation decides to do. This is important in encouraging other states to stand their ground as well, such as what Oklahoma recently did in passing a bill to protect itself from unconstitutional executive orders regarding the pandemic and other issues.
Case counts in Texas may have dropped, but they are still at dangerous levels. All of the major variants of COVID-19 have been found circulating in Houston, and as CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said, 'At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.' Numbers are higher now than during the period earlier in the pandemic when some states lifted restrictions, causing cases to rise drastically again, and one would hope that we would learn from our mistakes. As Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who disagreed with the lifting of restrictions, pointed out, 'Every time public health measures have been pulled back, we've seen a spike in hospitalizations.' This may be because the lifting of restrictions sends the message that the threat is behind us, leading to more risky behavior and further spread of the virus.
As for the mask mandate, the wearing of masks is not just a personal freedom issue, as the intent is to protect others as much as yourself. While it is disappointing that people aren't responsible or considerate enough to take it upon themselves to continue wearing masks until the pandemic is under control, if a mandate is what it takes, so be it. It is not a major imposition and well worth the benefit of helping to get the virus under control.
States lifting restrictions too soon places all of us at risk and will only result in prolonging our issues.
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