Back To Normal? Texas Re-Opens and Drops Their Mask Mandate

Earlier this week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced his issuing of “an executive order to lift the mask mandate and open Texas to 100 percent.” While local governments have held most of the power of determining their policies throughout the pandemic, President Biden issued his executive order soon after entering office that requires masks to be worn at all federal buildings. The CDC has also issued orders mandating masks within public transportation. While the state government has control over its entities, so do private businesses and local school boards. Therefore, the executive order issued by Abbott doesn’t have complete control over mask-wearing within these locations.

While the governor isn’t forcing businesses to re-open or dismiss face mask protocols, the executive order gives local governments and private corporations much more independence and control over their operations. If a business is financially hurting from closures during the pandemic, it may choose to take advantage of the executive order and appeal to customers with a more ‘normal’ atmosphere that omits mask-wearing and occupancy restrictions. So, what are the implications of this?

Many governmental leaders and health professionals within the state of Texas have become concerned about Abbott’s executive order. After all, Texas is the second most populated state in the country and despite the release and increasing availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, only 7.79 percent of the state has been fully vaccinated. Abbott’s motivations for a re-opening of the state seem to be “ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.” He hopes to give back a sense of American liberties; however, many public officials within his own state have others. Texas House speaker, Dade Phelan, supported the order in hopes that it would improve the mental health of students, help businesses and increase reporting of domestic violence and child abuse.

covid-19 wall graffiti Photo by Adam Nieścioruk from Unsplash While many Republican lawmakers within the state have been eager for a return to normalcy, mask mandates and the handling of the pandemic has become yet another polarizing topic between the two major parties, leading to further division over policymaking. Gene Wu, a Democratic State Representative, criticized Abbott’s announcement greatly: “The mask mandate costs the public next to nothing... So why get rid of something that has little to no cost and is very effective? Politics.”

While Texas’ recent announcement has surpassed other state’s efforts of easing COVID-19 restrictions, governors all around the country are now weighing their options. Kids are beginning to return to in-person classes in states such as Illinois and Maryland. An executive order by the Mississippi governor, Tate Reeves, ended their mask mandate last week on Wednesday. While everyone wants to return to business as usual, federal health officials are concerned about the implications of loosening restrictions. Recognizing a universal wish to return to normal, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns, “We’re not there yet.” These stark contrasts between public officials on the handling of the pandemic are becoming increasingly confusing for Americans and while many are hopeful for the future, the jury is out on if forcing normalcy is the right solution.

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