Texas Lifts Mask Mandate in a Push To Reopen, Despite Health Authorities’ Warning
Governor Greg Abbott announced Tuesday he’s dispensing with the mask mandate in Texas, even though health officials warn not to wind down virus restrictions.
The rollback has been issued following the increased availability of vaccines and a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. However, health experts emphasize the possibility of another surge and warn of more lethal variants of SARS-CoV-2.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines still advise wearing masks, especially in the state where the virus has killed more than 43,000 people. Even though the numbers across the US have recently been rapidly falling, the death toll remains high, averaging 300 per day.
Not only health authorities reacted; president Joe Biden intervened on Wednesday, blasting Abbott’s decision as “Neanderthal thinking,” warning that the pandemic is far from over.
This decision made the biggest impact on retailers across the country. Following Abbott’s announcement that businesses will work at full capacity beginning March 10 and the announcement of the rollback of the mask mandate, retailers were left in awe.
They worry it’s too soon to ease safety restrictions and don’t plan to make any adjustments to their safety measures. Big retailer chains and supermarkets still insist on customers wearing masks to protect their staff. The decision to stop masking around others can jeopardize the grocery stores around the country and reverse the gains Texans have worked so hard to achieve, they believe.
Most of them won’t allow maskless customers nor employees, following the guidelines from CDC. Jason Brewer from the Retail Industry Leaders Association called Abbott’s decision a “premature mistake that will put retail workers in a vulnerable position” in an email statement for CNN.
The National Retail Federation released a statement on this, encouraging customers to continue wearing masks in stores nationwide. The spokesman for NRF insisted in it that “retailers are private businesses, and it is within their right to implement and enforce policies that protect the health and the safety of their employees and their customers.”
The decision to scale back virus restrictions amid the pandemic caused turmoil and controversy among retailers and customers. It’s yet another tryout for them, and we’ll see whether businesses will be able to strike a balance between survival and safety. Let us hope that Abbott’s decision won’t undermine everything that has been done so far in terms of protecting Texans against COVID-19.