Mask-Wearing Still Matters

Until the entire country is vaccinated, and until hundreds of people are not dying daily from COVID-19, there is no excuse for not wearing a mask.


Emma Coleman

Students wear masks on campus, following Washington and Lee’s Covid-19 protocol.

Charlotte Dross

On March 2, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he would be lifting the mask mandate in Texas. As part of this executive order, he also increased the capacity of all businesses and facilities to 100 percent.

Although businesses are free to set their own rules about limited capacity and implement their own safety protocols, this new executive order means that many Texans will proceed with their daily lives as if they are living in a pre-pandemic fantasy world.

Unlike Abbott, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not changed their stance on masks, instead advising people to continue wearing them to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Abbott has received mixed feedback on his decision. While some officials believe he has moved in the right direction, he has also received an overwhelming amount of backlash.

Dr. James McDeavitt, senior vice president and dean of clinical affairs at the Baylor College of Medicine, told NBC News that he believes the governor’s decision is premature. He said that in order for herd immunity to be reached, wearing masks and practicing social distancing are vital.

Even President Joe Biden has taken to criticizing Abbott’s decision. According to NBC, he called the executive order an example of “Neanderthal thinking.”

Just days after issuing the executive order, Abbott said in an interview with Houston’s ABC13, “We are still urging people to continue to wear the mask, to continue to use the safe practices that they have mastered over the past year.”

In this same interview, Abbott also stated that he wears a mask and will continue to do so.

This raises an obvious question: if Abbott believes people should continue to mask-up, and if he himself is still wearing a mask, why would he lift the mandate?

The country has made progress since the beginning of the pandemic, but infection and death rates are still soaring. Last week alone, Texas reported an average of 200 deaths a day, according to The Texas Tribune.

Abbott has voiced optimism about the vaccine, citing this as one of his reasons for issuing the executive order. But as of the weekend of March 6, less than seven percent of Texans had been fully vaccinated, according to The Texas Tribune.

As a Texas native currently living in Virginia, I don’t feel the impact of this change as much as my parents do. But it does make me fearful for the future.

More states are gradually starting to lift mask mandates and allow businesses to open at full capacity. Just last week, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also lifted the mask mandate for all counties. Who is to say other states won’t do the same?

I would like to return to normalcy as much as anyone, but I don’t think repealing a mask mandate is the way to go about it.

Wearing a mask requires minimal effort. It’s one of the simplest yet most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19.

About a year ago, W&L sent students home because of the outbreak of COVID-19. At that time, we knew little about the pandemic and how to avoid its transmission.

But now, we know much more about the science behind this virus and how to combat infection. Until the entire country is vaccinated, and until hundreds of people are not dying daily from COVID-19, there is no excuse for not wearing a mask.