On Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott shocked and pleased many people with his announcement on COVID. Even my grade school daughter told me the news when I picked her up from school. Governor Abbott restricts businesses and facilities from requiring people to wear a mask starting Friday. This brought some heartburn to El Paso leaders.
Even with the no mask policy, COVID cases continue each day in Texas. El Paso schools were given a few more days and they have until June 4.
Assisted living facilities, government owned hospitals, and jails are exempt from Governor Abbott’s no mask policy.
“We cannot require but we are going to strongly encourage like we did encourage citizens to please where a face masks, continue to social distance and sanitize your hands,” said Mayor Oscar Leeser.
In El Paso, 54% are fully vaccinated and 69% are partially vaccinated according to Mayor Lesser.
"These numbers didn’t come by accident. They came because our community came together,” said Leeser.
COVID cases are not high as they were months ago as people are getting the COVID vaccine.
Governor Abbott’s announcement has even bothered the President of the United States.
At the time, President Joe Biden laid into Governor Abbott and other governors lifting restrictions, saying such moves were “Neanderthal thinking.”
Other states made the announcement weeks earlier restricting the requirement to wear masks. Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis gave his order on May 3 and applied this to only local government and not schools.
South Carolina’s Governor Henry McMaster made his announcement on May 11 for local government and schools.
“Anybody can wear a mask if they want to. It’s just that it’s a decision to be made by Texans, not to be forced by government,” the Republican Governor told CNBC.
Earlier this year in March, Governor Abbott made the decision to open Texas businesses. Now not requiring businesses to enforce people to wear a mask is the next step. Dropping the mask is the next big decision for Abbott.
“The Covid situation in Texas is such that we can and should be open 100%,” Abbott said. “We can eliminate government-required masks, but we always encourage people to make their own choice for themselves and for their own safety.”
One thing that the Governor may have missed, is the vaccine has been out for several month now but the number of people who received the vaccine is still low.
Texas has only vaccinated 33% of its population. This is behind other states such as California (39.3%), New York (43.4%), Florida (36.2%), and Pennslyvania (40.1%). These numbers are as of May 18.
Then there are some people who probably refuse to get the COVID vaccine.
Governor Abbott received the COVID vaccine in December last year.
"I will never ask a Texan to do something I'm not willing to do myself," Abbott said moments before getting vaccinated at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin. "They said it's important for governors to step up and be examples in their community."
In an October poll, 42% of Texans said they would get the vaccine if there were minimal costs. Currently, the vaccines are free to any Texas resident.
The other 60% of Texans could fit this poll. This past March, 61% of white Republicans, and 59% of all Republicans regardless of race, either said they are reluctant to get the vaccine or would refuse it.
For Democrats, 25% of them said they were hesitant or would refuse to get the vaccine.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported no one has died from the vaccine. Some people may experience side effects after receiving the vaccine such as sore arms or headaches.
A few months ago, Mayor Lesser sent Governor Abbott a letter about losing his mom to COVID.
"I share this very personal story not to seek sympathy, but to convey to you that when I speak about face masks, I do so not only in my role as Mayor leading our wondering City of El Paso, but as someone who is deeply aware of the power and protection that wearing face masks can provide an individual."