On March 2, 2021, Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order (GA-34), lifting Texas’ statewide mask mandate and increasing all businesses’ and facilities’ capacity to 100%.
Dear Governor Abbott,
Would you please stop killing us?
I don’t think ignorance is the cure to a pandemic. On March 10th, your GA-34 Executive Order took effect and proves precisely my point.
As a Texas resident, I am appalled by your decision to open our state and I am frightened of the changes to come. Not only have you turned away science and facts showing that we are not yet out of the woods against our fight with COVID-19, but you have also left our people more vulnerable than ever in the face of a health crisis that under no means should be politicized.
Taking away masks invalidates the many lives lost through the pandemic and deprives them of their legacy. Just because many people infected with COVID-19 have recovered, there are hundreds of thousands who did not.
Their families, who miss them terribly, deserve our respect through our continual wearing of masks. Furthermore, even though we see tremendous progress in vaccinations, we must continue to work hand-in-hand with our doctors by giving them the time needed to get shots in everyone’s arms without worrying about covid patients. We are moving too fast.
Just how much of our state has been fully vaccinated?
According to John Hopkins University data, it was less than 9% of Texans when the mask order was suspended.
9%, in a state with over 29 million people.
As much as I would love to consider that the delay in vaccinations is due to Texas simply having more people in general, it only belies that more people = greater dissemination of COVID = an even greater need for masks.
Texas has been notably marked as a recurring hotspot for COVID-19 cases in the past. If variants continue to develop and our medical community advises against relaxing on protocols, now is not the time to suspend protective regulations.
Outside of Houston, students and teachers were asked to describe how they felt about the recent executive order.
“When I first heard of [the decision], I thought, are you kidding me? I mean, I was not happy about it. I still have real questions and reservations about it,” states Peter Perretti, a Social Studies teacher from the greater Houston area.
“I'm not quite sure what the best path is. I've gotten the vaccine, and so that affects the way I think now. I feel much better about my situation, but I know that really- we need to think about the bigger picture...a broader picture. I just still think that being on the safe side is probably the wisest path to take,” continues Perretti. “Our right to liberty is not unchecked by concern for others and other people's right to life.”
“I think it's irresponsible given the circumstances in the United States with the number of cases and casualties,” says Varsha, a sophomore in The Woodlands, TX.
“As governor, he should be looking out for our best interests and our health, but in this case, he didn’t since he only looked at the economic side of things. Masks are considered to be a preventative measure...and rather than taking this prevention method away should enforce it to control the spread of the virus.”
In my mind, this nonchalant indifference isn't a surprise from the Texas government. Since the pandemic took its hold in early 2020, we've seen constant push back from our elected officials on the safety protocols recommended by the CDC and other medical professionals.
Governor Abbott, the effects of your GA-34 decision are already taking their toll by sparking political division coupled with hateful attacks. For example, in San Antonio, one famous ramen shop was vandalized after the owner required that masks continue to be worn inside.
Statements such as "Kung flu," "go back 2 China," and even "hope U die" were written in red spray paint according to the pictures he shared with CNN. When anti-Asian hate and ideological polarization run rampant, now the act of wearing a mask IS a political statement.
Additionally, according to the Texas Tribune, “White Texans are being vaccinated at nearly twice the rate of Latinx Texans and more than six times the rate of Black Texans, according to state data.”
How are minoritized communities supposed to protect themselves against those who choose not to mask?
You talk a great deal about Texas exceptionalism, but you must be exceptional for all Texans to do that. Demonstrate to us that we can do the right thing by wearing a mask and saving lives.
We’re almost there.
Kendall C., a member of the John Cooper School JSA Chapter in The Woodlands, Texas, decided that the best way to express her views about the lifting of the Texas Mask Mandate was through an open letter to the Texas Government.
JSA Voices is a forum in which JSA students can express their concerns about local, state, and federal policies. JSA Voices is proud to provide students from across the political spectrum an outlet for expressing their views on issues that matter to them. The views expressed here are the views of the students and not those of the Junior State of America.
Afterword: As always, no matter the political orientation, all JSAers should comply with CDC health guidelines and mask-up when in public spaces.