Texas Mask Mandate Repealed
Updated: Mar 23, 2021
Despite the warnings from the Biden administration, Dr. Fauci’s advice, and objections from public health officials, Texas governor Greg Abbott lifted the mask mandate. In addition, he also declared that restaurants are able to host customers again at full capacity.
Sarah Self-Walbrick of Texas Tech Public Media says that “Abbott insists that there are fewer people in hospitals now and more people getting vaccinated.” However, she also goes on to say that “it is worth noting that vaccinations are taking place at a much slower rate than elsewhere in the country.” Consequently, this repeal has been invoking strong reactions amongst Texans, both good and bad.
For many restaurant owners, lifting the mask mandate has made life more difficult. Many are still requiring that their customers wear the proper face coverings, and “bartender Kristen Farmer worries the end of the statewide mask mandate may make that harder to enforce” reports NPR.
As of March 11th, “only 16% of adults in the state are fully vaccinated” according to The Guardian. This has led many locals to believe that this decision is too premature. According to the New York Times, many of those who are on the front lines like restaurant employees have yet to receive their vaccine. “It would be cool if more people were vaccinated before we started opening up everything,” said Farmer. It is for these reasons that “a statewide mask was helpful” according to Melissa Stewart with the Greater Houston Restaurant Association.
In contrast, restaurant owner Alex Brennan-Martin supports the governor's decision and says the mandate had become “contentious” He says that putting the employees in the position of enforcing regulations on “an issue that is highly emotionally charged is a difficult thing to ask your employees and management to do.”
Amidst the split view of restaurant owners are medical workers who are concerned about a sudden spike in hospitalizations. Chief Medical Officer at United Memorial Medical Center Joseph Varon said “we think we're going to have a large number of patients come in because of this do-not-wear-a-mask (laughter) request by the governor.” According to NPR “these plans include stocking up on more PPE, having more nursing personnel and even getting additional ventilators” says Varon.
Varon is not the only one who has expressed this concern. ICU nurse Ivette Palomeque told NPR that “COVID is nowhere near over. There's still people in the ICUs, like, today that are dying, that'll die tomorrow, that'll die the next day, the next day, weeks and weeks to come still because of COVID.”
This is the mentality of Mexican restaurant owner Arnaldo Richards. When asked to explain his decision to continue requiring that his employees and customers wear mask he says that “the decision was very easy.” He understands that “we're not out of the woods” and “we're still in the pandemic.”
Unlike some people in the restaurant business, Richards would describe this enforcement as a “personal responsibility”, opposed to a “burden.” He says that “this is what we need to do as a community” and “we need to protect each other.” To those who refuse to wear a mask, Richards simply says to “be kind.”