by Nia Peake ‘23
It has been over a year since Covid-19 put the world on lockdown; a year of social distancing, mask coverings, and minimal group settings. As vaccines are being administered and people are beginning to feel safer, some states’ governors have decided to open up to 100 percent capacity for many businesses, such as restaurants, and remove mask mandates. While it can be understandable from an economic standpoint to open up businesses to more customers, some questions remain about whether lifting these restrictions is a good idea right now.
So far, six states (Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota) have fully lifted their mask mandate, joining eleven other states who never required statewide mandates in the first place. The governors of Texas and Mississippi have also opened up to 100% capacity contend that with over 100 million vaccinations distributed already– and more to come–the mask mandates are no longer necessary.
“Covid still exists, but it is clear from the recoveries, from the vaccinations, from the reduced hospitalizations, and from safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed,” stated Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott at his announcement for his state to remove the mask mandate and open up to total capacity.
The governors who want their states to reopen, primarily Republicans, are supporting their decision with the fact that the number of vaccinated people has only increased. But, polls have shown that those who are leery of receiving the Covid vaccine are many Republican voters. Such contradicting views make it much more difficult to be safe. If one doesn’t want to wear a mask, the next step is to get vaccinated, but alternatively, if one doesn’t want to get vaccinated, they need to wear a mask.
Democrats have criticized the lifting of the mask mandate, with President Joe Biden describing Abbott’s lifting the mask mandate as a big mistake. He even went on to accuse the governors of Texas and Mississippi of “neanderthal thinking”. Similar to Democrats’ views, health officials also have advocated for states not to lift the mask mandate because of the subsequent opening of business capacities on the verge of spring break, a rush that will lead to havoc in Covid cases. Dr. Natasha Kathuria, a global health specialist, reacted to the lifting of mask mandates just before spring break calling it “a recipe for disaster.”
Not only are there conflicting political views on the mask mandate, but there also seem to be mixed feelings among business owners. Businesses that require masks to enter their store now have to deal with even more defiant customers who refuse to do so. Incidents like these could lead to taking more precautions, which has the possibility of more business setbacks like a further decrease in capacity. If every customer that enters a business would wear their mask, the higher capacity could be. In this way, state government officials telling people to be responsible yet still letting masks be a personal choice can become counterproductive.
With all this dispute on lifting mask mandates and opening to 100 percent capacity, it is safe to say that the future of Covid-19 is uncertain and lies in the hands of governors, healthcare workers, and the people.