Texas, the second-largest state in the United States (U.S.) has recently ended its mask mandate. In the past two weeks, COVID-19 cases have seen a 35 percent drop in Texas. Despite these significant changes, does this signal an end to the Coronavirus pandemic in Texas?
An increase in COVID-19 numbers in the southeastern portion of the state says otherwise. Consequently, some of Texas’s largest and most important counties, such as Austin and Travis, have reinforced their mask mandates on the county-level. This gives the public a complicated and difficult-to-read situation in regards to the state of the pandemic in Texas.
The Texas case is symptomatic of a larger issue in the U.S. With the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, many people have embraced the prevailing myth that the pandemic is somehow over. .The vast majority of the public, approximately 90 percent of Americans, are not currently vaccinated. Moreover, it is estimated that vaccination rates must reach at least 70 percent to achieve herd immunity within a given population. In addition, an alarmingly large number of people do not want to get vaccinated. 49 percent of Republican affiliated men have stated they will not take any form of COVID-19 vaccine. 10 percent of Democrats said they would not take the vaccine if it is available to them. This makes it difficult to reach herd immunity.
But despite these alarming statistics, more states continue to roll back their COVID-19 restrictions. This presents a larger issue, that some people are willing is to forgo COVID-19 guidelines because they have concluded it is time for COVID-19 to end on their own terms
It is well known that working-class people and people of color (POC) are the most disproportionately affected by Coronavirus. As the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has said, “In California, 21 percent of vaccinations have gone to Hispanic [Latinx] people, while they account for 55 percent of cases, 46 percent of deaths, and 40 percent of the total population in the state.”
In other words, the privileged people with access to vaccines and healthcare have concluded that the pandemic is over for everyone else. Even in traditionally liberal areas masks are coming off. The University of Colorado Boulder saw a massive party that snowballed into a riot (although news coverage did not ascribe it as such), with hundreds of white young adults partying in the streets and with little to no masks in sight. Usually, these COVID-19 superspreader parties are associated with the large southern schools in Texas and have now become the norm even in liberal areas like Boulder.
Ultimately, the Coronavirus is not going anywhere soon. With the majority of people refusing to take the vaccine being Republican men, and many communities across the country having limited access to healthcare resources and the vaccine, mask mandates being repealed will only exacerbate the pandemic and widen health inequalities.
The solution? Continue to follow state guidelines. Even if your state, county, or city has repealed certain COVID-19 regulations does not mean you cannot continue to follow them yourselves.
Individual businesses can enforce their own COVID-19 guidelines as well, such as wearing masks in public spaces, setting capacity limits, and maintaining social distancing guidelines.
The unfortunate truth is that the U.S. has, and continues to mishandle its COVID-19 response, leading to countless tragic deaths that could be easily avoided. These devastating events will continue day-to-day if mask mandates and other COVID-19 safety guidelines continue to be lifted without a second thought.