Mask mandate implementation was patchy in Texas, now locals concerned
Texas became the largest state in the United States to lift the countrywide mask mandate imposed by the federal administration in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The infection has so far killed more than 43,000 people in Texas.
This was announced by Texas governor Greg Abbott said Tuesday despite a urgent warning to states from federal health officials to not let their guard down, saying the pandemic is far from over. The repeal will take effect from March 10, announced Abbott.
The enforcement of the mask mandate was patchy, and some sheriffs refused to police the restrictions at all. There were reports that authorities only warned the violators verbally, or left informational flyers.
The opponents of the mask mandate said that wearing them infringed upon their rights, like making personal judgements about what represented an acceptable risk to self. Other said it infringed on constitutional rights.
"I believe in our constitutional rights, and this is borderline infringing on some of those constitutional rights in my belief," Jason Bridges, a sheriff in Nacogdoches County, Texas, was heard saying in a Facebook video which had become widely popular on social media.
Meanwhile, restaurant owners are discussing whether they, too, would relax Covid-19 safeguards in their dining rooms that were already allowed to be almost fully open after Abbott's latest order. School administrators are also scrambling to figure out the ramifications for the state's 5 million public school students.
At Bob’s Steak & Chop House in Dallas, founder Bob Sambol welcomed the ability to make decisions for his own restaurant again, even though he has not decided what approach he'll take. “I have a week, thank God," Sambol said.
Texas is fully reopening just ahead of the spring break holiday, which health experts worry could lead to more spread.
Abbott’s rollbacks come just as the US is picking up the pace of vaccinating people. In Texas, 7.1 per cent of its nearly 30 million residents have been fully vaccinated, according to state data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).