Texas and Mississippi: National embarrassments


(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Leo Carney, kitchen manager at McElroy’s Harbor House in Biloxi on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, said the removal of coronavirus restrictions will disproportionately impact Black residents — many of whom are essential workers, Friday, March 5, 2021. Carney said he would feel better with restrictions being removed if essential workers had access to the coronavirus vaccine.

Something shameful happened in our country last week: The governors of Texas and Mississippi lifted the mask mandates and announced the reopening of the states to 100%.

Way to go –– You have set the entire nation backward on its goal to placate the spread of the coronavirus just when we were starting to gain a lead.

Everyone knows the famous fable “The Tortoise and the Hare.” We are the hare that grows overly confident in his lead in the race so he decides to take a break. COVID-19 is the tortoise: slow but has a chance at winning because of the foolish hare.

This pandemic is not some looming fantastical monster that requires a bold “You don’t scare me” in order to defeat. It is real, and it takes legitimate and consistent measures to fight off.

I would have liked to believe that we were in the final stretch of ridding our nation of the most dangerous parts of this virus. That hope has been squashed by these decisions from republican politicians who could not handle the pressure from their states’ citizens and their own personal agendas.

In case there are still people who don’t think the virus is dangerous, here is a headline from a CNN Health article: “More people have died from COVID-19 than in the past 5 flu seasons combined. And coronavirus is much more contagious.” Senior news writer Holly Yan provides an overview of COVID-19 and Influenza comparisons, citing data from several sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Hopkins University, Harvard Medical.

On March 3, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported an increased average of 4,532 new cases and 226 new fatalities per day over the last week.

Live updates from the Wall Street Journal and the CDC show that 15.5% of the Texas population and 16.7% of the Mississippi population have been given at least one dose of the vaccine. These percentages are among the eleven lowest in the country, including Louisiana at 16.2%.

Yes – vaccinations are instilling hope into citizens nationwide, and that is wonderful. However, the vaccines that have been developed and are currently being administered to millions nationwide may not be effective in fighting off the emerging variants of the virus. The current vaccine is not the end-all-be-all solution, especially since only about 30% of the country has been vaccinated. The vaccine is another tool. It does not cancel out the need for masks and other safety measures.

The governors have left many of their businesses, particularly restaurants, vulnerable to unsafe environments that risk the loss of customers whether they choose to continue the mask requirement or not.

Duncan Agnew with the Texas Tribune spoke with businessperson Anne Ng of Bakery Lorraine in San Antonio. She and many other restaurant owners in the state have maintained the mask mandates within their establishments.

“By repealing the mandate, the government is putting everyone at risk, and foodservice workers are sadly at the front lines in facing potential hostility from folks who will refuse to respect our mask policy,” Ng said. “We don’t deserve that.”

You can disagree with me over the morality of the governors’ decisions, but you cannot dispute the reports from the CDC or state departments of health. If you are okay with lessening––or completely removing––the restrictions while people are still dying, that says more about you than me.

We can only hope that John Bel Edwards has a bit more sense than Greb Abbott and Tate Reeves and holds off on fully reopening the state until we see more deceleration of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.