One thing that has become very evident in recent days is that there is mounting pressure to ditch pandemic protocols and resume normal activities.
I think that would be great, but it’s still too soon. What a lot of people forget is the guidelines to wear masks, practice social distancing and to wash hands frequently isn’t a political mandate, but a health mandate. It’s fallen to our elected officials to carry out and enforce the mandate and they’ve done it with varying degrees of success. Because it’s in the hands of the politicians, many people view the response to the pandemic as political, not health related. Unfortunately, many politicians seem to view it that way as well. (And no, the pandemic will not end on Nov. 3.)
In recent weeks I have been critical of Austin County officials for not supporting or following the mask mandates. On Monday County Judge Tim Lapham filed the paperwork to exempt the county from the mask mandate and to reopen bars because the rate of positive tests has dropped below a certain threshold.
I think the jury will be out on the good judge’s actions for a while, but I honestly hope he made the right decision. The consequences if he didn’t could be catastrophic or even lethal for some. Assuming COVID-19 is no longer a viable threat in the county, he is giving people and businesses some much needed relief. He did note, however, that if businesses require masks that patrons must oblige.
My biggest concern is that we may have a spike in virus cases because we’ve let our guard down too soon. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve been to enough places and witnessed too much human behavior during the pandemic to make me skeptical.
Last Saturday we took my parents who were visiting from Colorado to the Texas Renaissance Festival. Even though it is strongly recommended that patrons wear masks, I estimate that only about 60-70 percent did. As the day wore on, the more masks came off. It was hot and hard to breathe with them, but we managed just fine.
What wasn’t fine are the number of people who ignored the rule against smoking and vaping. Another problem was that even though admission was limited to 25,000 people (average is around 60,000-plus), social distancing did not work.
By contrast, I took my family to Space Center Houston last Thursday and there masks were enforced and social distancing was easier to keep, but that is also a much smaller and controlled venue. Still, there are people who think they’re above the rules when it comes to masking. At the city council meeting last Tuesday, a man removed his mask for much of the meeting and no one said or did anything about it even though masks were required.
The Houston Texans require the few fans who can attend games to wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking. It appears that policy has been working. Major League Baseball has been operating without fans, but yet it, and some NFL teams, have been plagued by COVID-19 outbreaks. Go figure!
The biggest anti-masker out there happens to be President Donald Trump, and he caught COVID-19. Even after being rushed to the hospital he continues to be an anti-masker. I chalk that up to him only caring about himself and not being concerned about the welfare of others. I bring it up because it demonstrates how thoughtless and careless people can be when it comes to wearing masks.
Wearing a mask has nothing to do with protecting yourself from getting the virus. It has everything to do with protecting others around you in the event you have the disease but are unaware of it. It’s meant to slow the transmission of the virus, not the reception of it. Hence the saying “my mask protects you and your mask protects me.” Unfortunately, too many people don’t want to see it that way. They taunt people who wear masks as being afraid, which is wrong on many levels.
It’s hard to say how long Texas will be under a mask mandate. My best guess is a few more months. What concerns me with Judge Lapham’s actions locally and the movement Gov. Greg Abbott is showing toward opening up the state more, is that if there is a need to close down again or re-mask, that people will outright rebel and any hope of curtailing the spread of COVID-19 will be lost. Once the cat is out of the bag, it’s a whole lot harder to put it back in.
Still, I sincerely hope that we are headed in the right direction and we can unmask and open up for more business. That would be a breath of fresh air.