Austin, TX: Masks are off the back-to-school supply list for the 2021-2022 school year. That's according to a newly released Executive Order by Texas Governor Greg Abbott:
"The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities," said Governor Abbott. "Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up."
The order goes into effect on June 4th, so schools can require masks for staff and students for the remainder of this school year. After that, schools can be fined up to $1,000 for keeping a mask requirement in place.
In Austin and across the state of Texas, residents are now on the honor system. If you're vaccinated, you don't need to wear a mask.
Schools recently relaxed mask requirements outdoors. Wearing a mask is not required for outdoor activities where physical distancing can be maintained. Austin Independent School District released updated requirements:
- End-of-year activities such as promotion ceremonies are allowed outdoors.
- Quarantining is now required for 10 days, except in cases when individuals did not wear masks consistently, or high-risk people who are not vaccinated are involved, which would require a 14-day quarantine.
- Tours and campus visits for educational activities and instructional purposes with prior approval are allowed if COVID-19 screening procedures (including screening questions and temperature checks) are involved.
The CDC recently released new guidelines, saying masks are not required for individuals who are fully vaccinated.
Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde told Austin-American statesman:
"As much as they want to know now, I think I have a responsibility to be patient and take our time before we rush to, 'this is what it will look like in the fall,' because I don't know what it will look like in the fall," she told the board.
Elizade goes on to say:
"We know masks prevent COVID-19 from spreading, and there is nothing in the governor’s order that forbids people from wearing masks," she said in a statement. "It only means we cannot require them. We encourage everyone to use their common sense and continue to follow advice from scientists when it comes to protecting themselves from the coronavirus."
The CDC's loosened outdoor requirements just a few weeks ago, about the time eligibility was extended to include individuals age 12-16. We don't know yet know the effect of those changes. Suddenly the CDC issues an abrupt about-face on the indoor mask requirements, leaving individuals puzzled and wondering why.
"Major chain stores like Walmart, Trader Joe’s, and Costco. These states and companies are ceding their power to implement population- and business-wide policies that protect the health of all, and instead are just hoping for the best: that the unvaccinated will still wear masks indoors to protect themselves and others from illness, long COVID, and death. But hope is a weak public health strategy."
The Austin School District is considering the CDC's advice and how it will verify whether or not individuals have been vaccinated. The AISD hasn't made definite decisions on how this will affect the 2021-2022 school year. Children under 12 years of age are not vaccine eligible.
Questions that are top of mind, especially since most people have little trust in ongoing shifts and changes:
- How do individuals know if they can trust each other?
- How can anyone verify that an individual is vaccinated?
- Why are mask requirements removed when not everyone is vaccine eligible?
- Why is wearing a mask a political issue?