“…every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a re-opening—whether you want to call it a re-opening of businesses or of just a re-opening of society—in the aftermath of something like this, it actually will lead to an increase and spread.”
That statement acknowledged what medical experts were telling state officials during the long months of COVID-19. But you might be surprised to learn the name of the person who said it.
As soon as reports that the COVID-19 virus had entered the country, political sides were drawn when the former president downplayed its significance despite significant warnings from both the Centers for Disease Control and the Center for Infectious Diseases. It only got worse as stay-at-home orders and mask mandates were established by states that shuttered the majority of businesses in the country.
On May 16, the CDC caused us all to breathe again by stating that “Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
Many governors had already begun cautiously moving to re-open businesses under certain guidelines. That move would not only help a suffering economy but allow most of us to begin to enjoy the freedom to socialize with family and friends if you are fully vaccinated. However, some choose to define that freedom differently.
Signing an executive order, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott said, “Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up,” Abbott said in a news release.
Abbott’s order appears to be more about defiance than public safety. But let’s take a closer look at Abbott’s executive order.
“Texans, not government should decide their best health practices.”
This can only be interpreted one way: Texans have the requisite medical knowledge to make their own health decisions especially about a new and deadly virus.
Abbott’s order says nothing about “fully vaccinated people.” Rather, it states, “…on June 4, 2021, no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor may be required to wear a face covering.”
“We can continue to mitigate COVID-19, Abbott says, “while defending Texans’ liberty to choose…”
The CDC and other experts have reported that millions who have not been vaccinated can be carriers of the disease without showing any symptoms, and thus have a strong likelihood to pass the disease on to others. How is that mitigating the disease?
But here’s the most onerous part. Anyone who requires a mask in violation of the order is subject to punishment “by a fine up to $1,000…”
Here’s how some parents in Texas reacted to the news.
“When Bridget Wiedenmeyer learned Texas was banning mask mandates in public schools,” CNN reported (May 20), “she immediately worried about her 11-year-old daughter — who has a chronic lung condition but is too young to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
“There’s a large contingent of people who are like, ‘Well, only this teeny tiny percent of kids …. die of Covid.’ And I have an issue with that.”
Wiedenmeyer said that her daughter frequently suffers from pneumonia.
“This notion that only a few kids will die — therefore we won’t make the rest wear a piece of cloth on their face — is mind-boggling to me.”
Parents like Wiedenmyer look to the leadership of state governors to make decisions that consider the health and welfare of all residents especially when it comes to a deadly infectious disease like COVID-19.
But there’s another twist in this story.
Two weeks before the Texas governor signed that executive order, a recorded phone call between state officials caught this statement from one of them.
“How do we know re-opening businesses won’t result in faster spread of more cases of COVID-19? Listen, the fact of the matter is pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a re-opening—whether you want to call it a reopening of businesses or of just a reopening of society—in the aftermath of something like this, it actually will lead to an increase and spread. It’s almost ipso facto. The more that you have people out there, the greater the possibility is for transmission.”
That’s Governor Gregg Abbott speaking to the state legislature and Congress, as reported by The Daily Beast (May 5). That’s the same man who signed an executive order two weeks later that would punish pretty much anyone in Texas from requiring the wearing of a face covering, the minimum standard to protect those who have not been fully vaccinated. A spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the call that was recorded by someone on the call and sent to the Daily Beast.
“Though Abbott has repeatedly said in public interviews that re-opening ‘can’ or ‘could’ cause a spike in cases, the audio recording from last Friday’s call appeared to show a more direct and certain understanding of the risks,” The Daily Beast says.
Why would the governor of the one of the most populous states in the country sign an executive order that would punish anyone for requiring masks when that governor understands and admits to the health risks of a disease?
“John Wittman, a spokesperson for Abbott,” Daily Beast writes, “insisted on Tuesday that the language in the audio message doesn’t deviate much from a local interview in which the governor admitted that ‘all scientists and doctors say that as we do begin to open up, there could be an increase in the number of coronavirus cases.’ But during that interview, Abbott again attributed the increase to the improved capacity for testing in the state, rather than the increase in person-to-person contact.”
Nonetheless, judging from Abbott’s knowledge about the potential for serious health consequences in re-opening and his executive order punishing those who require mask-wearing, it’s clear he’s choosing political self-interest over a simple measure of safety for his citizens.