Over 43,000 Texans Dead and Counting…KEEP YOUR MASKS ON!!!
“It’s time to open Texas back up 100%!”
Those were the words from Texas Governor Greg Abbott at a news conference he held at Montelongo’s Mexican Restaurant in Lubbock, Texas, where he announced that he was completely comfortable with making a decision to reopen the state of Texas in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic…once again!
On March 2, Gov. Abbott issued Executive Order (GA-34) which will lift the mask mandate he implemented in Texas and that will increase the capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state of Texas to 100 percent.
Yes, you heard that correctly!
Gov. Abbott ignored the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the advice of countless public health experts, scientists and medical professionals to prematurely rescind public safety measures, including the statewide mask mandate, which is sure to put the lives of millions of Texans at risk.
Effective Wednesday, March 10th, Gov. Abbott stated that now is the right time to COMPLETELY open Texas back up for business…at 100 percent and no longer require masks!
During his remarks at the news conference, Gov. Abbott pointed to the advancements Texas has made that will allow the state to fully open all businesses at 100 percent and lift the mask mandate. Gov. Abbott stated the rapid increase of vaccines, whereby nearly 5.7 million vaccine shots have been administered to Texans, and the administering of nearly one million shots each week in Texas, helped him feel comfortable about his decision.
According to Gov. Abbott, about 7 million shots will have been administered in Texas by the time the new Executive Order goes into effect on March 10th and over half of seniors in the state will have received a vaccine shot. He continued by stating that every senior who wants a vaccine should be able to get one by the end of March and that the vaccine supply continues to increase so rapidly that more and more Texans will soon be eligible to receive a vaccine.
“With the medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus,” said Gov. Abbott. “We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent. Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed. Today’s announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others. With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.”
Keep in mind that COVID-19 became more amplified across the state of Texas after Gov. Abbott made the premature decision to reopen the state in phases on May 1st of last year, causing COVID-19 cases and deaths to skyrocket.
On June 25, Abbott hit the pause button by discontinuing his phased reopening plan that led to the significant spike in cases and increased number of deaths.
Seeking to deal with the debacle, Gov. Abbott reversed his original stance to reopen the state in the midst of this worsening pandemic, when he issued an executive order (Executive Order GA-28) on July 3rd requiring every Texan to wear masks or face coverings in public and in businesses to combat the ever-increasing spread of COVID-19 across the state.
Fast forward to March 2021, and Gov. Abbott is clearly still seeking to gamble with the lives of Texans once again, pointing to other factors to justify his decision.
At his March 2nd news conference, Gov. Abbott also noted that Texas has a surplus of personal protective equipment and can perform over 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day and that the state has invested in a variety of anti-body therapeutic drugs that have kept thousands of Texans out of hospitals. He went on to say that Texans have adopted daily habits that reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection and that more than 2.5 million Texans who were lab confirmed for COVID-19 have recovered since the beginning of the pandemic, with experts noting that the total number of Texans who have recovered from COVID-19 is likely 4 to 5 times that amount. Lastly, Gov. Abbott stated that the number of active COVID-19 cases is the lowest since November, which he believes shows that more Texans are recovering from COVID-19 than contracting it.
Of course, medical experts and scientists aren’t so comfortable with lessening restrictions and trusting in the fact people are being vaccinated the way Gov. Abbott currently is.
This past weekend during a national interview, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that he did not believe the number of new COVID-19 cases is dropping fast enough and while a decrease in numbers is good, he believes we should remain cautious and continue to do what is necessary to protect ourselves from the virus.
“We don’t want to continue to prevent people from doing what they want to do. But let’s get down to a good level,” Dr. Fauci said during an interview on “Face the Nation” this past weekend. “Let’s get many, many more people vaccinated. And then you could pull back on those types of public health measures. But right now, as we’re going down and plateauing, is not the time to declare victory because we’re not victorious yet.”
According to Gov. Abbott, Texas businesses may still limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols at their own discretion. He also stated that if COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a County Judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies. However, Gov. Abbott contends, no County Judge may impose jail time on anyone for not following COVID-19 orders, nor impose any penalties on anyone for failing to wear a face mask. He states that if restrictions are imposed at a County level, those restrictions may not include reducing capacity to less than 50% for any type of entity.
Both Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo sent a joint letter to Gov. Abbott prior to his announcement about the mask mandate. In that letter, both pleaded with Gov. Abbott to keep the mask mandate in place, pointing to scientific studies that show wearing face masks saves lives by slowing down the community spread of the COVID-19 virus.
After hearing Gov. Abbott’s disappointing announcement, both Turner and Hidalgo held separate news conferences of their own to express their concern about the decision and to encourage residents to continue following the safety protocols.
“These numbers are real. This is not the time to take the masks down,” said Turner. “I remember in the last week in April of 2020 when we reduced the standards, and I remember in May, June, July and August when the numbers went up. I remember in the late Fall when the state reduced the standards and the numbers went up again. So again, this is not the time to say that people don’t have to wear masks. It’s one thing to ease up on some of the standards in a methodical, deliberate fashion. I got that. But, my main concern would be taking these masks off or saying you don’t have to wear the masks. I encourage all Houstonians to keep their masks on.”
Hidalgo said the Gov. Abbott’s decision to lift these important precautionary restrictions is “unacceptable and dangerous” and could lead to another surge.
“Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel as it relates to this virus, but quite frankly we aren’t there yet,” said Hidalgo at her news conference after the governor’s decision. “This is not the time to give up. This is not the time to promote more infections. This is not the time to promote more hospitalizations. This is not the time to promote more deaths for the sake of political expediency. A rescinding of restrictions doesn’t come with a reduction of the virus’ contagiousness, so I hope folks will continue to follow the spirit of the behaviors that we need them to follow, which is to wear the face coverings and to avoid the gatherings of folks not in their households. I hope we can do that so we can get to herd immunity without first going through a level of crisis that we’ve already avoided.”
Some public entities have announced they will continue requiring masks and facial coverings, despite the Governor lifting the statewide mask mandate.
Fort Bend ISD will continue to require masks and facial coverings in all of their schools and District facilities, and will continue this requirement until they can further review guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Fort Bend County health officials, and the District’s medical advisor.
Fort Bend ISD released a statement regarding their decision:
“The overall health and safety of the community remains a priority, and District leadership is aware that not all employees have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Retaining the mask mandate will ensure a safe learning environment for all students, teachers and staff. FBISD continues to work with local COVID-19 vaccine providers to ensure that all staff eligible for vaccination in groups 1A and 1B according to the State’s phased vaccine distribution. The District also continues to advocate for the State to include educators and school staff among the priority groups for vaccination.”
Michelle Tremillo, Texas Organizing Project (TOP) Executive Director, released a stinging statement in response to the decision by Gov. Abbott to lift the mandate and precautionary measures that have helped control the increased spread of COVID-19 across Texas. Tremillo compared his COVID-19 decision to that of his mishandling of Winter Storm Uri, calling the Governor’s leadership style and approach political, arrogant, racist and negligent. She stated:
“Fresh off the mishandling of a massive statewide disaster that resulted in the deaths of dozens of Texans in the freezing cold, many of them Black and Latino, our governor now has the audacity to prematurely lift all COVID-19 safeguards, knowing this virus is disproportionately tearing apart the health of Black and Latino families. It’s these same Black and Latino families that endured the worst of Gov. Abbott’s incompetence during Winter Storm Uri, with many still struggling financially right now as a result. What Abbott is doing is not leadership. It’s arrogant, racist negligence that puts the needs of his wealthy corporate donors above the health of working-class Black and Latino Texans whose labor has sustained our state through this pandemic, and who in turn are more likely to fall victim to COVID-19. With our state continuing to rank near the bottom in vaccine distribution, our lives and the wellbeing of our communities are being used as political chips by a governor hellbent on throwing vulnerable Texans under the bus in order to cater to his already rich donors and look ‘powerful’ in the eyes of national far-right pundits.”
Is this a matter of Gov. Abbott placing Profits over People? Politics over the Pandemic?
Whatever the answer those questions are, it matters not. The Governor has made his decision.
While it is clear Gov. Abbott has decided to move forward with rescinded his statewide mask mandate and reopening all businesses at 100 percent capacity, the impact of COVID-19 is real and will not change if Texans residents and businesses don’t take this seriously.
The Forward Times is encouraging all Texans to please adhere to all recommended safety protocols to ensure you are protected from this deadly virus.