Lifting mask mandates while calling for personal responsibility is a deadly mistake

Texas and Missouri are among some states who are lifting mask mandates

Michael Sicoli, Opinion Editor

Texas representatives dominated the news cycle throughout February due to the lack of preparation for the winter storms that plagued the area. Now in March, Texas officials are again in the limelight — and once more for a negative reason.

Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott announced that he would be lifting the mask mandate on March 10, while also allowing businesses to return to full capacity. To put it simply, Texas will revert back to what  life was like before COVID-19 swept the world. The state wasn’t alone, with Mississippi, Iowa, Montana and North Dakota ending or planning to end their mask mandates in the near future.

It’s disheartening. It’s shameful. It’s downright ridiculous.

The vaccine has delivered a needed shot of hope in the arm but, just like the Pfizer vaccine, people need more than a single dose to stay safe. Getting the vaccine ready and available to people was just the first step in a long journey back to normalcy. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to lift the mask mandate despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Abbott touted his vaccination numbers as he defended lifting the mask mandate, saying that over 50% of Texas residents who are 65 or older have been vaccinated. Well, what about the other half? What about people from ages 50-64, who account for almost 9,000 of Texas’ 45,000 COVID-19 related deaths. Is it fair to just say “screw it” and send maskless people rampant in those communities?

It’s an insult to the frontline workers who have argued to keep COVID-19 preventative protocols in place. The role of leadership has been tested throughout this pandemic. We saw former President Donald Trump crumble when it came to handling COVID-19 and combust when it came to the cries for social justice. We have seen how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo failed to protect those most at risk from the virus due to his mismanagement of COVID-19 cases, with thousands of nursing home deaths. On top

There’s a small margin of error when it comes to a deadly virus. But the one thing few leaders did up until now was trust the people they represent. 

What does that mean? Well, there are social distancing rules and mask mandates for a reason. People cannot be trusted to unselfishly care for others. The presence of anti-mask protesters  long before the creation of a vaccine is proof of this selfishness. 

Now, there can be a long philosophical debate about the nature of human beings. Put the John Locke books back on the shelf. Abbott can suggest that people should wear a mask but without the commitment of policy, it’s nothing but hollow words that fall on deaf ears.

And speaking of hollow words — where is President Joe Biden? During his campaign trail Biden said that he would support a national mask mandate. Since states, not the federal government, control public health, this was an impossible promise to keep, and Biden knew that. So he in turn promised that he would speak to every governor about imposing mask mandates. If that didn’t work, he would speak to every mayor and council.

Instead, not even two months into office, this country has moved in the exact opposite direction with states removing mask mandates rather than implementing them. Hyperbole, perhaps. Hollow words, definitely. 

The moral compasses of representatives have long been questioned but now it seems apparent — business matters more than lives. If Texas experiences economic success at the cost of thousands of lives, Abbott will point to the immense death tolls from when the mask mandate was in place, ignoring the fact that it was pre-vaccination. This is a lose-lose situation given how deadly COVID-19 has been.

This is an issue that transcends Abbott’s opinion. It’s quite literally a matter of life and death. 

When the finish line is finally in sight, please don’t take it easy on the final lap. Be diligent with preventative COVID-19 protocols regardless of what a governor says. Listen to medical professionals and more importantly, think beyond yourself. Wear a mask.