OPINION: Reinstate the mask mandate, it is saving lives


Gage Skidmore

The CDC and WHO continue to advise people to wear masks during the pandemic.

To Gov. Abbott:

The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic one year ago on March 11. On March 10 of this year, it was your decision to sign an executive order announcing that Texas’ statewide mask mandate and capacity limits will end.

Still, the United States leads the world as the worst-hit nation with 29.2 million confirmed cases and 529,622 deaths. Texas ranks second in the country for confirmed cases with 2.71 million cases. Only 9% of Texans are currently vaccinated, yet the state is fully open at 100% capacity.

I previously questioned whether your priorities lied in ensuring the safety of Texans or ensuring your re-election. After all, the science and data provided by health officials is irrefutable, and you did respond to the surge in cases this past summer by enforcing the mask mandate. However, the lack of response to the record-breaking snow storm that left 4 million Texans without power and now allowing for infections to increase makes it abundantly clear that the livelihoods of Texans isn’t your main priority. 

Instead of letting us live in fear, I urge you to protect Texas by reinstating the statewide mask mandate and distancing practices before we face another resurgence. 

In the past week, local governments are choosing to reject your order and to follow public health guidance. The city of Austin, Travis County and local officials refuse to rescind the mask mandate, even as Attorney General Ken Paxton threatens to sue. Houston, Round Rock and San Antonio join Austin as cities that require people to wear masks, and there’s a growing list of restaurants and businesses choosing to not change their previous practices.

Not wearing a mask was never a choice for me. I’ve decided to stay home in Dallas because of the pandemic, as a high risk individual with even higher risk parents. Friends and family around me have contracted the virus, some dying from underlying health conditions and being unable to properly and comfortably treat these conditions because of high hospitalization rates. 

It’s terrifying to imagine what’s to come from your decision. There are people who agree with your sentiment, risking to reverse the little progress Texas has made by believing that the pandemic here is under control. However, Texas was already leading the nation as a general hotspot for COVID-19 cases, even with a 25% decline in infections. Especially for universities and college towns, which were already planning to reopen and have more in-person classes like St. Edward’s, reopening Texas puts too many in danger with no real justification. 

Let’s clarify one thing: wearing masks is our new normal, and the normalcy you speak of returning to isn’t attainable anytime soon with this order. 

If anything, reopening the state with no statewide mandate is a major step back. Most people prefer to listen to the advice from health officials rather than politicians, and Texans have gone through enough this year already. So, I urge you to choose to protect your state, not just for your platform, but for humanity.