Good, bad, and ugly: Reactions to Governor Abbott lifting the mask mandate, reopening businesses

Governor Abbott chose the 185th anniversary of Texas Independence Day to announce he is completely reopening the state and eliminating face mask mandates, too. This action goes into effect next week, on Wednesday, March 10. Reactions from Texans and others came swiftly and were as split as the nation is in general.

As Allahpundit pointed out yesterday, there are not a lot changes with the governor’s move. The timing is questionable. Is this a counteraction to the CDC and others like Dr. Fauci stressing that now is no time to ease up on taking precautions against the coronavirus? Or is it a move to distract from the other big story in Texas, that of the catastrophic power failure during the Valentine’s Day winter storm? Supporters were celebrating and opponents were full of doom and gloom. For example, Rep. Dan Crenshaw is pleased and Beto O’Rourke flat out says Abbott is killing Texans. There is no room for nuance here.

One-time presidential candidate and former El Paso Rep. Beto O’Rourke called Abbott’s move a “death warrant for Texans.”

“Add them to the 44,000+ killed as he failed to confront the pandemic & botched the vaccine rollout,” O’Rourke said in a Tweet. “And those who froze to death because he cares more about energy companies’ profits than keeping Texans alive. Abbott is killing the people of Texas.”

No one loves their hair set on fire more than Beto. Democrats around Texas expressed themselves in a similarly dramatic fashion. Among the first out of the gate were Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, both strong supporters of completely shutting down the country’s fourth-largest city.

To be fair, that tweet was posted by a staffer – Turner signs his tweets with his initials at the end. Here’s one of his :

No one enjoys victimhood more than the mayor. The county judge issued a statement of disapproval. She, too, says it’s a distraction from the power grid crisis.

Abbott’s lifting of the face mask mandate does not affect federal mandates. Everyone still will have to mask up at airports and on planes, for example. The same is true in federal buildings. Mayor Turner is keeping the city’s mandate in place for city employees and people at city venues.

County judges (county CEOs in Texas) have the final say if COVID hospitalizations are greater than the 15% hospital capacity mark.

The order covers the entire state, but county judges in trauma service areas that have high COVID-19 hospitalizations — greater than 15% of hospital capacity for at least seven straight days — may issue orders to slow the spread of the disease. Those orders could include mask mandates and limiting businesses’ capacity. But the capacity restrictions must not be lower than 50% and there can be no such restrictions on schools, child-care centers and places of worship. Only one region — encompassing Culberson, El Paso and Hudspeth counties in West Texas — meets the high hospitalization requirement.

Here’s the bottom line – Texans will proceed with caution and make their own decisions on protecting themselves and their loved ones. Abbott encourages Texans to be personally responsible and follow guidelines from health experts. Passengers using public transportation still must mask up. Businesses may still require masks to enter – it is their choice. Restaurants are already at 75% capacity. Restaurant owners are saying they will move slowly. Their employees will still wear masks and mitigation methods will be in place for a while. Some owners were caught by surprise by the governor’s announcement and are now scrambling to hire more workers and adjust to an ability for increased capacity. The Texas Restaurant Association is pleased but cautious.

How the restaurant industry will negotiate that new phase wasn’t clear on Tuesday. While the Texas Restaurant Association celebrated Abbott’s announcement, it was quick to say that Texas restaurants must “remain vigilant so we do not slide backward.”

“Consumers will only go where they feel safe, and so restaurants must continue to be very thoughtful and implement the safety protocols that will enable them to maintain and build trust with their consumers and employees,” the association stated.

Texas school superintendents say they did not receive advance notice of Abbott’s announcement. Texas Education Agency officials said they will release updated guidance this week. Most superintendents say they will continue with mask requirements for now.

The hashtag #COVIDIOT is trending this morning as I write this. Some people think a no-fly list for Texans would be a swell idea. Authoritarian tendencies are hard to shake, apparently, for some people. There are already mandates in place at airports and on airplanes and those are not affected at all by Abbott’s action.

There are 14 states that do not have statewide mask mandates: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Abbott isn’t breaking new ground here. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves is following along the same path now.

As I said, it’s a mixed bag of reactions. Retailers are happy to be free to serve more customers in stores but the Retail Industry Leaders Association grouses that store employees will still have to enforce CDC guidelines.

It is hard to find a topic in which people are not divided. Our country is bitterly divided on most issues and the coronavirus pandemic is at the forefront of those battles.