When Ursuline upperclassman venture off campus for lunch, many go to Eatzi’s, a popular market with premade food. The market is just a five-minute drive from campus, but before the girls can enter a large sign on the door stops them in their tracks, “America was founded on freedom of choice. Mask wearing is your choice. God bless America.”
This signage was installed preceding Greg Abbott’s announcement on March 2, in which Abbott repealed many Covid-19 restrictions previously in place in Texas. These restrictions include reopening public places to 100% and repealing the mask mandate.
Abbott defended his decision stating, “Make no mistake, Covid-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed.”
His order leaves room for businesses to make their own decision on whether or not employees and customers should wear masks.
Eatzi’s founder, Phil Romano, was overjoyed at the governor’s decision. “It’s your choice if you want to wear the mask or if you don’t want to wear the mask,” he said, “I don’t think people should bully other people about what they should or shouldn’t do.”
Since the announcement Albertsons, Central Market, and HEB have all required employees to wear masks but only request costumers wear them.
Target, ALDI, Costco, Kroger and Sprouts have stated that they will continue requiring customers and employees to wear masks.
Texas is not alone in repealing mask mandates. Ten other states including, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming and Kansas, made the government transition back to normal.
Scientists worry that states are moving back to normalcy too early. “I don’t think this is the right time,” stated the former commissioner of the U.S Food and Drug Administration, Mark McClellan.
Many scientists fear that a fourth wave will come if Americans act too preemptively and let down their guard. However, Americans fear of the disease is decreasing every day. On April 6, Gallup’s polls recorded the lowest fear rate in Covid-19 since the virus began. Only 35% of Americans are worried about catching Covid-19 and 77% say that the Covid-19 situation in the U.S is improving.
Despite scientists’ push back, data from Johns Hopkins University records that the five states accounting for 43% of new coronavirus cases over the last week include New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Which, excluding Florida, all have mask mandates in place and are still producing the largest Covid-19 numbers in the country.
Contrarily, a month after Texas has reopened, case numbers have declined at a constant rate. The average daily case number has fallen by 1,795.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo agrees with scientists who push back. She worries that these numbers are just here for a short time.
“The truth of the matter is, we don’t know yet.” Hidalgo told ABC News, “We don’t know because it takes about a month and a half from when there’s been a reopening. When you look historically that’s when things begin climbing up. Then it takes longer for the numbers to really worsen.”
As more people get vaccinated, the question for the US is when is it okay to return to normalcy. For the past year Americans have ventured through a pandemic for which no one prepared. And now as the country may or may not be venturing out of a pandemic, they are once again unprepared for what comes next.
This unsureness perpetrates everyone, making the simple event of off campus lunch turn into a larger choice for students. They now can choose to force the normalcy they have been waiting for and not wear a mask, or continue to take precaution, lowering the spread of Covid-19.