Next Wednesday is a big day for the Lone Star State: Per a Tuesday executive order announced by Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas will be opening "100%" on that date, and there will no longer be a statewide mandate for people to wear face masks. Per the Texas Tribune, local health officials are already balking at the governor's order, noting that Texas is still ramping up its vaccination efforts. The emergence of coronavirus variants also makes this especially bad timing, they note. Houston, in fact, is the first US city to record having all of the various COVID strains. "Whatever the governor has recommended, it should not change what people do in terms of wearing masks," says Dr. John Carlo, CEO of Prism Health North Texas and part of the state medical association's coronavirus task force. "It's very clear that we need to continue to wear masks in public places, period." Health officials there are also advocating to continue other safety and health protocols, such as social distancing and hand-washing. More perspective on Abbott's order:
- Local officials weigh in: Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg are among Texas' leaders who are pushing back after Abbott's announcement, per the San Antonio Express-News. "We're going to have a lot more people die and we're going to have a lot more people getting sick," Wolff says. Nirenberg added: "Opening everything to 100 percent while simultaneously nixing our mask mandate is a huge mistake. ... You don't cut off your parachute just as you've slowed your descent."
- Regional editorials, Part I: The editorial board of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram calls Abbott's order an outright "mistake," noting that "he decided to make more illness and death more likely just as the finish line is in sight." At the very least, the board says, the governor should've offered flexibility to local officials.
- Regional editorials, Part II: The Dallas Morning News' editorial board, meanwhile, understands Abbott's "impulse" to allow businesses to try to "get back on their feet," but they call the removal of the mask mandate "premature." Keeping mask rules in place "would have helped ensure the businesses aren't forced to close again in the event we get yet another wave of infections."
- AOC's take: New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who helped raise millions for Texas after it was slammed last month by a winter storm, didn't mince words in her comments on the latest, per MySanAntonio.com. "The state just endured one disaster worsened by selfishness + denial of basic science, and now conditions are being set for another," she tweeted Tuesday. "Repealing the mask mandate now endangers so many people, especially essential workers & the vulnerable. ... This endangers the entire country and beyond."
- 'Frustrated' small businesses: The Star-Telegram notes Texas businesses themselves are conflicted over what to do, with some saying they'd continue to require masks inside their establishments, while others won't. Without a state order to back them up, some fear more confrontations with customers, even if they personally believe in continuing to adhere to health best practices. "Front-line service workers now have to have these battles face-to-face with people who don't want to wear masks anymore more because they're tired of it," one barbershop owner says.
- Mississippi governor also 'recklessly reopening': That's the take of Mariel Garza, who writes in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times that Gov. Tate Reeves is similarly foolish for opening up the Magnolia State starting Wednesday and rescinding his state's mask mandate. "As far as I can tell from their official websites and Wikipedia entries, neither Reeves nor Abbott are scientists or even scientifically inclined," Garza notes, blasting the leaders for their states' vaccine distribution, which are, as of Wednesday, both below the national average: 13% for Texas and 14% for Mississippi.
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