Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed an executive order Tuesday banning local governments and schools from having mask mandates, citing citizens’ right to make their own decisions about masks as the pandemic wanes.
“The Lone Star state continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities,” Abbott said in a press release. “Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities.”
Local governments that continue with mask mandates after May 21 could face fines up to $1,000, and schools must phase mandates out by June 4.
“We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up,” Abbott said.
Texas was first to life state mandate
Texas lifted its statewide mask mandate in March, making it the first state with a mandate to lift it.
President Joe Biden slammed the state’s “neanderthal thinking” at the time, but Texas did not see a spike in cases after lifting the mandate.
In fact, Texas saw zero COVID deaths on Sunday for the first time since March 2020, showing that vaccines have been much more effective in stopping the virus than masks.
Austin and Travis County still had mask mandates after the order was lifted in March, and other major cities like Dallas and San Antonio required them in all city-owned properties like libraries and transportation hubs. These kinds of rules would not be allowed under the new executive order.
Giving a choice
Abbott’s order does not ban masks or prevent anyone who wants to wear one from doing so. Instead, Abbott is merely giving everyone a choice about wearing masks, and telling localities and schools that they must give people the same choice.
The widespread availability of vaccines for everyone 12 and up has put the responsibility for one’s safety firmly where it belongs: back with the individual (or maybe a parent).
If you choose to get vaccinated, your risk of death from COVID-19 will drop down to something like one in a million. If you choose not to be vaccinated, you will not be able to put those who are vaccinated at any significant risk because of the vaccine’s protection, whether anyone is wearing a mask or not.
Either way, vaccinated people are protected, making masks largely unnecessary and putting choices about risk with the individual. That’s fair, and it is high time the rest of the country follows suit with Texas-type thinking about masks and other COVID restrictions.