Public health leaders and social media push back against a maskless celebration of freedom.
A mask-off party? Really Houston? A popular Texas bar called the Concrete Cowboy scheduled a “mask off” party for March 10, the day Texas Governor Greg Abbott plans to remove all Covid-19 restrictions across the state.
Concrete Cowboy previously promoted the event on social media but have pulled back after a flurry of negative news stories criticizing the outrageous idea. Reports then circulated the bar would still hold an event but rebrand it as an “industry night.”
State Representative Ann Johnson stated in a news conference, “We are here to condemn the event on Wednesday night by Concrete Cowboy.” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner also pleaded with the owners to cancel the plans fearing a mask-off party could create a super-spreader event.
Concrete Cowboy owner Dan Wierck now says he will close the bar entirely on Wednesday night.
Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced plans to remove all Covid-19 restrictions across the state starting March 10. Texas businesses are free to operate at 100% capacity. Public health experts, government officials, hospital leaders criticized the decision of the executive order.
Hospitals like Baylor Scott and White announced they would continue life-saving restrictions and require all patients, visitors, and staff to wear a mask and follow CDC guidelines.
Professional teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars have no plans to change any mitigation strategies. Many local restaurants have announced plans to continue mask requirements. Houston’s Pico’s received national attention as patrons threatened to call immigration authorities ICE in response to mask requirements.
Masks are simply the single easiest way to help protect yourself and others. Asymptomatic carriers spread the virus. An asymptomatic carrier is someone who has the virus but does not know it. Through no fault of their own, a carrier is contagious and passes viral particles to others.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is a respiratory virus that travels on the small droplets we expel when we speak, clear our throat, and breathe. Droplets leave our mouths and then enter the mouth, nose, or eyes of others. Masks reduce the risk of transmitting the infection.
Covid-19 cases are trending lower across the state, but Texas ranks 50th in vaccinating its citizens. Low vaccination rates and the easing of restrictions cause public health experts to wince as Covid-19 variants begin to increase.
The B.1.1.7 variant was first detected in the United Kingdom but has rapidly spread worldwide. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) data shows this new variant is now present in all 50 US states, and current data projects it to become the predominant US strain in the next few weeks.
The B.1.1.7 variant is more contagious due to a mutation in the receptor on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. While this variant is more contagious, it is uncertain at this time if it is more lethal. New data from the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) indicate this variant may increase the risk of death.
The current three FDA-approved vaccines from Moderna, Phizer, and Johnson and Johnson are still effective against the B.1.1.7 variant and are highly effective in preventing death.
Vaccination efforts are a race against the rise of Covid variants. As Texas reopens, public health leaders will continue to vaccinate as many adults as possible.
Mask-off parties make our effort to stop the spread that much more challenging and put lives at risk.