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Abbott ends mask mandates

This guy, I swear.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that public schools can no longer require masks on their campuses starting June 5. The decision was part of a new executive order that bans governmental entities in Texas — like cities and counties — from mandating masks in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting Friday, any government entity that tries to impose a mask mandate can face a fine of up to $1,000, according to the order. The order exempts state-supported living centers, government-owned or -operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities, and county and municipal jails.

The order is arguably the most consequential for public schools. After Abbott ended the statewide mask requirement in early March, school systems were allowed to continue with their own mask-wearing policies unchanged. But after June 4, “no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor may be required to wear a face covering,” according to Abbott’s new order.

While 30% of Texans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the vast majority of children are unvaccinated. The Pfizer vaccine was authorized last week for children as young as 12. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still only authorized for those 18 and older. School-age children have seen lower infection rates than other age groups. COVID-19 cases among those 5-17 years old make up 10% of total cases in the country, according to the latest CDC data.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor places.

The Texas State Teachers Association called Abbott’s latest move premature. In a statement, the head of the association, Ovidia Molina, said Abbott should have waited until the CDC issued updated guidance on masks for the 2021-22 school year. Molina acknowledged that some Texas school districts have already ended their mask requirements but said the association believes “that also is ill-advised.”

“The health and safety of our students, educators and communities must remain our first priority as we attempt to emerge from this pandemic,” Molina said.

Abbott’s new rules will take effect as the school year is winding down for most students — or already over. The last day of classes for the state’s biggest school district, Houston ISD, is June 11, while May 27 is the last day for most students in the state’s second biggest district, Dallas ISD.

Why can’t you just wait another week? School is almost over here in Houston, and it will be over in some parts of the state before this kicks in. Vaccination levels still aren’t that great, though we can reasonably expect them to be significantly better by August, and we know that fully reopening schools when we did increased the COVID infection rate. Surely Abbott isn’t that afraid of little ol’ Don Huffines. One more week, that’s all that was needed. The Chron has more.

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4 Comments

  1. […] that government buildings would reopen to 50 percent capacity, and the county is reviewing that dumb anti-mask mandate order. The Press and the Trib have […]

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    I think that this decision will be OK, and no harm done. I believe that Joe Biden’s boss, Mrs. Harris, should be impeached unless she tells Biden to publicly apologize for saying that Gov. Abbott is a Neanderthal when he was shown to be correct back in March, as time has show us. Beto should also be totally discredited at this point.

    We say that we know that fully reopening schools when we did increased the Covid infection rate, but have we read the paper? It is not peer reviewed, it is from the NBER which is non partisan and non profit, but then I see that two people from NBER just got federal appointments.

    I have not finished wading through the entire 75 page paper from NBER, but at the outset, the paper admits that three concurrent papers found no effect of school reopenings in Germany, Washington, and Michigan, but their paper is looking at state that had a high rate of Pre-existing transmission. So, we know that Texas already had a high rate of transmission, and the paper can’t conclusively show that the high rate wasn’t going to trend upwards already.

    Even though NBER is non political, they are sure to mention that President Trump’s vote share influenced reopening decisions of school districts. My search of federal funding to NBER shows that they get funding from Dept. of Commerce, Treasury, and Bureau of Labor. Keep in mind that the people doing this analysis are economics people, not virology people. They used event study methodology, which is an econometrics analysis.

    Further, they tracked movement of adults using Smart Phone data, and concluded that reopening schools caused more adults to leave their homes, whether for work or leisure activities, they don’t know. It is not the school reopening per se that caused the increase, according to their analysis, but the resulting movement of adults in neighborhoods with a lot of school kids.

    Another point is that school district reopening is tracking by school district, and Covid fatality is tracked by county.

    FACT CHECK; Inconclusive, we don’t know for sure that fully reopening schools increased Covid infection rate. And, even more, since they did not analyze masks in schools, we have no idea if masks in schools make a difference, and even more than that, the schools weren’t the site of the supposed increased spread, it was increased adult activity, which, at this point, all rational adults are out and about, the bars are packed every weekend, adults are back to work, unless they are unemployment for as long as possible, and many adults are vaccinated. So risk is low, and Gov. Abbott should be commended for his decision at this time. Leadership entails taking risks, and Abbott has taken a risk which is well reasoned, so let’s see how it goes.

  3. policywonqueria says:

    LATEST FACE MASK EFFECTIVENES STUDY HIGHLIGHTS ENVIRONMENTAL CONTINGENCY (VIRUS LOAD CONDITIONS)

    Airborne transmission by droplets and aerosols is important for the spread of viruses. Face masks are a well-established preventive measure, but their effectiveness for mitigating SARS-CoV-2 transmission is still under debate.

    The authors of this study, published online today in SCIENCE, show that variations in mask efficacy can be explained by different regimes of virus abundance and related to population-average infection probability and reproduction number.

    For SARS-CoV-2, the viral load of infectious individuals can vary by orders of magnitude. Most environments and contacts are under conditions of low virus abundance (virus-limited) where surgical masks are effective at preventing virus spread. More advanced masks and other protective equipment are required in potentially virus-rich indoor environments including medical centers and hospitals. Masks are particularly effective in combination with other preventive measures like ventilation and distancing.

    CITE:

    Yafang Cheng, Nan Ma, Christian Witt, Steffen Rapp, Philipp S. Wild, Meinrat O. Andreae, Ulrich Pösch1, Hang Su, ‘Face masks effectively limit the probability of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.’ SCIENCE (May 20, 2021).

    Bottom line: Mask efficacy strongly depends on airborne virus abundance. Based on direct measurements of SARS-CoV-2 in air samples and population-level infection probabilities, authors find that the virus abundance in most environments is sufficiently low for masks to be effective in reducing airborne transmission.

    https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2021/05/19/science.abg6296 (open source)

  4. […] which can use all the help they can get. Given the universal return of in-person school and the removal of mask mandates, this makes a lot of sense. The schools themselves will be used to help get kids vaccinated, which […]