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States Beginning to Reverse Mask Mandates

This past week, multiple states made the decision to overturn their mask mandates. The states that are now going mask-free are: Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota. Alabama is expected to follow suit in about a month in repealing their standing mask mandate. However, these states are not trailblazers on the anti-mask mandate bandwagon. Eleven other states have never required masks. The reversal of these statewide mask mandates contradicts the current statistics of COVID-19 infections across the nation. 

Despite the decision of individual states to disregard the danger that the coronavirus imposes, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still encourages people to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Texans would be wise to heed this advice, as the current number of average COVID-19 deaths sits at 297 per day. In fact, in the last week of February, Texas hit a high of 5,000 cases in a single day. Despite these numbers, Texas governor Greg Abbott declared last week that Texas would be “100% OPEN!” Abbott’s idea of “100% OPEN” is that all businesses will reopen, allowing 100% capacity — this will include restaurants, and, of course, bars. 

Texas is the most recent of the five states to have repealed its mandates. North Dakota lifted its mandate in January, Iowa and Montana in February, and Mississippi merely a week prior to Texas. These states have justified their decisions by noting declines in daily cases, deaths, the passing of infection peaks, and the release of the vaccine. 

It is no surprise that the five states who are opting to reverse their mask mandates this month voted red in the 2020 Presidential Election. The former president was very open, in the beginning of the pandemic last March, in his opposition to wearing masks. He also made it clear that the economy of the nation was more of a priority than slowing the spread of the coronavirus. It is interesting to see that Texas, Montana, Mississippi, Iowa, and North Dakota continue to abide by this philosophy even after the inauguration of Joe Biden and his administration, who happen to be pro-mask and dedicated to combating the pandemic.

While the reversal of these mask mandates will technically be statewide, particular cities will still be allowed to make their own rules regarding masks and social distancing. For instance, the city of Austin, Texas will still be adhering to its municipal mandate until at least April 15th — possibly even beyond then. Furthermore, retailers can rebuff the reversal of mask mandates by requiring masks to be worn in their stores. Target, Walgreens, Macy’s, CVS, and Kroger are just a few examples of retailers who will still require masks to be worn in store regardless of statewide rules. In states without mask mandates, masks will also still be required on public transportation and on federal property, since this is a mandatory order from President Biden.

Even if your state has repealed its mask mandate — or if they have never had one — please continue to help slow the spread. Wear your mask. Social distance. Encourage others to do the same. The release of a COVID-19 vaccine should not be an excuse to throw these safe habits to the wayside; keep in mind that there are still plenty of people who have not yet received the vaccine.

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