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Abbott lifts statewide mask mandate

Unbelievable.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he is ending Texas’ statewide mask mandate next week and will allow all businesses to operate at full capacity.

“It is now time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott said from a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock, arguing that Texas has fought the coronavirus pandemic to the point that “people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate” any longer.

Abbott said he was rescinding “most of the earlier executive orders” he has issued over the past year to stem the spread of the virus. He said starting next Wednesday, “all businesses of any type are allowed to open 100%” and masks will no longer be required in public. The mask requirement has been in effect since last summer.

Meanwhile, the spread of the virus remains substantial across the state, with Texas averaging over 200 reported deaths a day over the last week. And while Abbott has voiced optimism that vaccinations will accelerate soon, less than 7% of Texans had been fully vaccinated as of this weekend.

Texas will become the most populous state in the country not to have a mask mandate. More than 30 states currently have one in place.

Abbott urged Texans to still exercise “personal vigilance” in navigating the pandemic. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed,” he said.

Currently, most businesses are permitted to operate at 75% capacity unless their region is seeing a jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations. While he was allowing businesses to fully reopen, Abbott said that people still have the right to operate how they want and can “limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols.” Abbott’s executive order said there was nothing stopping businesses from requiring employees or customers to wear masks.

[…]

Texans have been under a statewide mask mandate since July of last year — and they have grown widely comfortable with it, according to polling. The latest survey from the University of Texas and Texas Tribune found that 88% of the state’s voters wear masks when they’re in close contact with people outside of their households. That group includes 98% of Democrats and 81% of Republicans.

The absence of statewide restrictions should not be a signal to Texans to stop wearing masks, social distancing, washing their hands or doing other things to keep the virus from spreading, said Dr. John Carlo, CEO of Prism Health North Texas and a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 task force.

Carlo declined to react specifically to Abbott’s order, saying he had not had a chance to read it. He also expressed concern that new virus variants, specifically the U.K. variant, could still turn back the positive trends cited by Abbott.

“We’re facing unacceptably high rates, and we still hear every day about more and more people becoming sick. And it may be less than before, but it’s still too many,” Carlo said. “Even if businesses open up and even if we loosen restrictions, that does not mean we should stop what we’re doing because we’re not there yet.”

It was clear from what Abbott said during President Biden’s visit that he was planning to take action to loosen restrictions. I was prepared for him to announce a step-down or a schedule or something more gradual. I did not expect him to just rip the bandage right off. I don’t know what to say, but Judge Hidalgo does, so let’s listen to her.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Mayor Sylvester Turner slammed Gov. Greg Abbott Tuesday for allowing all businesses in Texas to fully reopen next week and lifting his statewide mask mandate, suggesting the governor timed the move to distract angry Texans from the widespread power outages during the recent winter storm.

“At best, today’s decision is wishful thinking,” Hidalgo said. “At worst, it is a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of state oversight of our power grid.”

Turner said Abbott’s decision to rescind the COVID measures marked “the third time the governor has stepped in when things were going in the right direction,” a reference to the surges in cases, hospitalizations and deaths that ensued after Abbott implemented reopening guidelines last year.

“It makes no sense,” Turner said. “Unless the governor is trying to deflect from what happened a little less than two weeks ago with the winter storm.”

[…]

Before Abbott’s announcement, Hidalgo and Turner sent the governor a letter urging him not to lift his statewide mask mandate.

“Supported by our public health professionals, we believe it would be premature and harmful to do anything to lose widespread adoption of this preventative measure,” Hidalgo and Turner wrote, arguing the mandate has allowed small businesses to remain open by keeping cases down.

The disparity between Hidalgo and Turner’s concerns — that Abbott would simply lift the mask order but keep other restrictions intact — and his decision to fully reopen the state puts on full display the diverging messages Houstonians are receiving from their local Democratic leaders and the Republicans who run the state. While Hidalgo is telling residents to stay home and buckle down, Abbott is giving the green light for a return to normal life, albeit one where Texans govern themselves using “personal responsibility,” he said Tuesday.

We know how well that’s worked so far. The irony is that other parts of state government still understand what’s at stake:

I’d love to say that Abbott will suffer political blowback for this, but polling data is mixed and inconsistent.

Texas voters’ concerns about the spread of coronavirus are higher now than they were in October, before a winter surge in caseloads and hospitalizations, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Almost half of Texas voters (49%) said that they are either extremely or very concerned about the spread of the pandemic in their communities — up from 40% in October. Their apprehension matches the spread of the coronavirus. As cases were rising in June, 47% had high levels of concern.

Caseloads were at a low point in October, as was voter concern about spread. And sharp increases through the holidays and into the new year were matched by a rise in public unease.

Voters’ concern about “you or someone you know” getting infected followed that pattern, too. In the current poll, 50% said they were extremely or very concerned, up from 44% in October, and close to the 48% who responded that way in the June poll.

“The second, bigger surge seems to have had an impact on people’s attitudes,” said James Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “In October, there was a trend of Republicans being less concerned, but this does reflect what a hard period the state went through from October to February.”

While their personal concerns have risen, voters’ overall assessment of the pandemic hasn’t changed much. In the latest survey, 53% called it “a significant crisis,” while 32% called it “a serious problem but not a crisis.” In October, 53% called it significant and 29% called it serious.

Economic concerns during the pandemic remain high. Asked whether it’s more important to help control the spread of the coronavirus or to help the economy, 47% pointed to the coronavirus and 43% said it’s more important to help the economy. In a June poll, 53% of Texans wanted to control the spread and 38% wanted to focus on the economy.

“The economy/COVID number is 2-to-1 in other parts of the country. Here, it’s almost even,” said Daron Shaw, a UT-Austin government professor and co-director of the poll. “What was a 15-point spread is now a 4-point spread.

So people are concerned about the pandemic, but also about the economy. Some of that may just be a reflection of the partisan split, but I have no doubt that Abbott thinks the politics of this are good for him, and that’s even before we take into account the distraction from the freeze. The scenario where he’s most likely to take a hit is one in which the numbers spike and a lot more people die. Nobody wants that to happen, yet here we are at a higher risk of it because of Abbott’s actions. It’s just enraging. So please keep wearing your damn mask, even after you get your shots. Wait for someone with more credibility than Greg Abbott to tell you it’s safe to do otherwise.

One more thing:

We both know how plausible that is. Texas Monthly, Reform Austin, the San Antonio Report, the Texas Signal, and the Chron has more.

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27 Comments

  1. David Fagan says:

    Pendejo!

  2. Flypusher says:

    Bad call, but not unexpected for a GOPer. I won’t set foot in any businesses without mask requirements. I also at least can require masks in my personal workspace.

  3. Manny says:

    Abbott appealing to the SS side of the fascist party, nothing new.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Good news that’s better late than never. Fly, you’re doing what’s right for you. If businesses no longer wish to harangue customers over wearing a mask, you’re free to not patronize them! That’s the great thing about a free society! You do you, Fly! Meanwhile, others will do themselves.

    As stated in the other thread, yes, this is mostly political, trying to throw the heat off of the blackout fallout. Still, it’s a good thing.

    Manny, I think you are unclear on what fascism is. Fascism is about regimenting behavior. Forced mask mandates are an example of fascist-type behavior. Government is forcing you to do something, and you will comply, or else. The fascism shown by Abbott was implementing the mask mandate in the first place. A woman named Shelley Luther lost her freedom over his edict, if we will all recall. Reversing the order is pretty much the opposite of that.

    In this instance, people now decide for themselves what they will or won’t do.

  5. Flypusher says:

    You forgot to add the increased freedom for all the new Covid-19 variants in town.

  6. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    Fascism isn’t about regulating behavior. That’s universal for any authoritarian political philosophy.

    Fascism is about ethnic nationalism codified into state power, which is pretty much what the authoritarian wing of the Republican party is about, what the Proud Brownshirts are about, and what you’re about, Bill. Whether white pseudo-Christian nationalists in the US are for or against policies that reduce the impact of a pandemic is pretty much a political decision for a fascist, and that’s what this has always been for the Republicans.

    And that’s why the US has led and continues to lead the world in death rates from COVID. This is an opportunity for Texas to break out of its mere average for the US death rate an really push ahead of the pack before the vaccines have a chance to have a large impact outside nursing homes, so that’s great.

    Of course, a lot of people will continue to ignore governor shill on the side of caution, but I expect a resurgence of performative goons wearing American flag pants and Confederate battle flag shirts to cover their swastika tattoos getting in the face of the cautious and harassing Asians as a result of this announcement.

    The Republicans will continue not to care about people who can’t afford decent medical care dying, because what’s really important to them will be finding ways to prevent anyone from voting for any candidates other than theirs.

  7. Manny says:

    Bill, you are the most fascist, racist that posts on Kuffner’s blog.

    Abbott is not advocating freedom, or he would let the local government dictate what is best for their community. Those maskless idiots have the freedom to move. Like I have the right to spend my money in any places that do not restrict people. Stores have the right to tell people to use masks, no shoes, and no service is certainly legal.

    He is pandering to the fascist lovers, the ones that advocate violence to take over governments.

    Fascist

    Definition of fascism

    “1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition”

  8. voter_worker says:

    No business will succeed in keeping maskless customers out because employees know that they will be the loser in any confrontation with a customer. Plus the maskless ones will be righteously wearing their victory on their sleeves. Expect an escalation of “mask rage” confrontations. My plans to re-involve myself in person in the local economy just got shelved indefinitely.

  9. brad says:

    Don’t ever let it be said that Gov Abbott doesn’t follow the science.

    He is scientifically the most astute in the state.

    When a political scientist says to Abbott that his MAGA base is starting to get a strong smell of his incompetent governance and that its time to distract his followers, well then, a red meat knuckle-headed move like removing mask protections is the perfect little shiny trinket to take their eyes off the ball, like their water damaged homes.

  10. Lobo says:

    ON BODILY ORIFICE COVERING MANDATES

    POLS Basics: All governments are about regulating behavior without exception.

    Therefore, the existence of a specific regulation (such as the requirement to wear gonad or mouth-and-nose coverings in public) cannot be a defining/distinguishing characteristics of fascism, communism, or any other political theory or implementation thereof. Same goes for authoritarianism as a political-regime type descriptively speaking (as distinguished from types of rule that are expressly based on a particular political ideology or religion).

    To say that a legal requirement to wear a piece of clothing covering a specific orifice (or orifices) is fascism is empty rhetoric for simpletons: demagoguery.

    To be taken seriously in a forum of and for rational and educated denizens, you have to discuss the merits of specific forms of regulation, rather than just throwing big ism words around like junks for red meat for a pack of hounds.

  11. Manny says:

    Lobo your ignorance about politics is showing. You want to argue both sides which at this point is what the fascist party would want, makes you suspicious.

    Do you you root for both teams?

    Because people may choose different methods of arguments does make them hounds, you are the stupid one here.

  12. Flypusher says:

    Well, well, well, check this out everyone:

    https://gov.texas.gov/first-lady/tours

    Apparently TX isn’t 100% open.

  13. Lobo says:

    ON POLARIZED DISCOURSE PATTERNS

    Re: “Lobo your ignorance about politics is showing …You want to argue both sides, [which makes you] suspicious”

    Manny, you make me smile with glee. It’s true: Lobo indeed is ignorant of many a thing. And he prides himself on not following the marching orders of either side.

    Oh the illusion of being an independent and heterodox thinker and commentator, eclectic and unpigeonholeable in his views!

    With that thrown into the arena, let’s not deny the obvious: it can be rather uncomfortable finding yourself in the nomansland between two entrenched fronts, especially when the shooting starts from both sides: you are liable to become a casualty of your failure to align yourself with a camp or a cult, as the case might be.

  14. manny says:

    Unlike sports there are always winners and losers in politics.

    Labeling is crucial, The fascist have been at it a lot longer and they have no illusions that their army is larger, thus they resort to all type of devices. Read The Prince and Art of War, history of guerrilla warfare is helpful.

  15. Flypusher says:

    I feel very bad for the retail employees. The mask mandate at least gave them some backup. There will be anti-mask assholes spoiling to pick a fight, that’s as easy to predict as the sun rising in the East tomorrow.

  16. Paul kubosh says:

    I am still requiring masks in my business. I also like Dr. Seuss. Why does every discussion have to be about race and hatred?

  17. Manny says:

    I don’t know, Paul, why did you vote for a person that started his campaign with;

    “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs.”

    So Paul, why do you hate “Mexicans”?

  18. Paul Kubosh says:

    Manny, you are clearly the biggest racist I have ever come across. You are full of so much hate I wonder how you sleep at night. I fell sorry for you and I hope one day you find peace. It is just sad.

  19. […] Go tell that to Greg Abbott. He won’t listen, but at least you can say you tried. […]

  20. […] here for the background. Local health officials were equally […]

  21. Manny says:

    You made me laugh Paul, with the typical Trump lover response; “I am rubber you are glue” response.

    That does not work with me, Paul.

    As to how do I sleep, very peacefully, but unlike Trump lovers, I don’t stay up worrying about a mob of “Illegals” breaking into my house.

    I don’t worry about my Muslim neighbors making bombs are indiscriminately killing all Christians.

    When I go to the Costco in Sugarland, I don’t worry about all those Asians spreading the “Chinese Virus”.

    Paul, why is it that you never seem to share that concern for peaceful coexistence with the fascists that often post on Big Jolly?

    Below are some things that have been posted in what I believe is a fascist blog;

    give orders for the soldiers to shoot to kill any person entering the kill zone from the Mexican side, period. Women? Children? Old people? Military age males? Waste anyone that crosses from Mexico into the US. Back that up with predator drones . and perhaps an A-10 every 3 or 4 hundred miles, for close air support for larger groups, and you’ve secured the border, with no fences.

    I oppose the mandatory masks by government diktat (I’m OK with private businesses mandating it for their own property, however) AND I support abortion, because most of the murdered kids would otherwise have been born to liberal parents. It’s better they were never born and don’t have to suffer the neglect, abuse, and brainwashing leftist parent(s) are known for. They also don’t grow up to vote for leftists, so there’s that, too. Look at the crime and rioting in leftist controlled areas; Without easy access to abortions, the crime rate in those areas would be even higher as the unwanted, un-cared for kids grow up and turn into ‘super predators.’
    It’s really ironic. You would think that leftists would be the ones opposing abortion because it mainly kills their own voters.

    It is also obvious that Meghan wears the pants in your family because otherwise you would not have used your dog whistle to mock our president. You used to be a real man who other men looked up to. Now you’re seen as nothing more than a milquetoast.
    Sadly, you went from a hero in 2008, when you served on the front lines in Afghanistan, to a henpecked husband now. You have been turned into a puppet whose strings are being pulled by a domineering bitch.
    And your press is nearly as bad as the daily attacks against the President by the Trump-hating media. The only good press you get is in the US, but only when you bad-mouth President Trump.
    Your fame-hungry wife is achieving her goal. There is even talk about her being a future presidential candidate. Horrors!!
    Harry, I’m sure you are having great sex and getting mind-blowing blow jobs, but when all is said and done, your marriage will eventually head for the rocks. And it will most likely be a bitter and contentious divorce involving the custody of your wonderful son Archie. But when it’s all over, you’ll be rid of the domineering bitch.

    Paul, I have noticed that some the most offensive blog posts have been removed, I guess one can blame the progressives and their cancel culture.

    Paul, what amazes me how intelligent Trump lovers are, by what those Trump lovers that tried to overthrow our government did;

    13. Kevin Loftus: Allegedly posted a selfie in the Capitol with the caption, “One of 700 inside,” adding, “That’s right folks some of us are in it to win it.” He later posted to Facebook, upon seeing himself pictured among the suspects, “i am wanted by the FBI for illegal entry” and pointing to his photo.

    12. Troy Faulkner: Allegedly wore a jacket from his painting company that included a phone number.

    11. Derrick Evans: The now-former West Virginia state lawmaker allegedly live-streamed himself entering the Capitol and identified himself for good measure: “We’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!”

    10. Joshua Lollar: Allegedly posted to Facebook after the Capitol riot saying, “Yeah, I’m good. Just got gassed and fought with cops that I never thought would happen.” Within minutes, someone believed to be his sister posted, “We cleaned off the post of you going into and inside the capital since they plan to prosecute everyone that was in there.” A minute later, she added, “You need to clean off your page.”

    9. Guy Reffitt: Allegedly told his family that he had been in the Capitol and that he had brought his gun with him. His adult son told investigators that his father later began to try covering his tracks, including deleting footage from his GoPro, and issued threats to his family if they turned him in. Among the charges in his indictment is witness tampering.

    8. Norwood: Allegedly dressed like antifa to avoid arrest and told friends and family he had gotten away with it before being arrested.

    7. Kevin Lyons: Allegedly briefly posted an Instagram of himself in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office saying, “WHOSE HOUSE?!?!? OUR HOUSE!!” He later told the FBI he had a dream about being in the Capitol that day, before they showed him the Instagram. “Wow, you’re pretty good. That was only up for an hour,” he said, according to court documents. He later emailed video of his time there, saying, “Hello Nice FBI Lady, Here are the links to the videos.”

    6. Tam Dinh Pham: Allegedly left photos of himself in the Capitol in the deleted photos section of his phone.

    5. Jenna Ryan: Allegedly posted multiple videos from inside the Capitol promoting her real estate business, including saying, “You guys, can you believe this? I’m not messing around. When I come to sell your house, this is what I’ll do. I’ll … sell your house.”

    4. Justin Stoll: Allegedly responded to someone who criticized his videos from inside the Capitol a day afterward by issuing threats, including, “If you ever in your … existence did something to jeopardize taking me away from my family, you will absolutely meet your maker. … You can play that for the [prosecutor] in court, I don’t care.” He’s now charged with making threats and witness tampering.

    3. Michetti: Allegedly called his ex-girlfriend a “moron” before she turned him in.

    2. Joshua Matthew Black: Allegedly admitted in a video posted on YouTube — two days after the siege, when others were covering their tracks — that he entered the Capitol with a knife: “We just wanted to get inside the building, I wanted to get inside the building so I could plead the blood of Jesus over it. That was my goal.”

    1. Thomas Fee: Allegedly sent a selfie from the Capitol to his girlfriend’s brother, who had asked if he was in Washington after seeing a social media post. The brother was a federal agent.

    Don’t worry about my sleep Paul, worry about how you justify yourself.

    I did not say you were a racist, but I can see where a racist may have inferred it from what I posted.

  22. C.L. says:

    One thing I can say about Manny… He sure seems to have a whole lot of free time on his hands.

  23. Manny says:

    C.L. I am retired, I have a lot of free time on my hand.

    I had stated that I was retired previously.

    So, I have the same time you do without a work schedule. Besides keeping up with what the fascists are up, I enjoy reading fictional books. I like fantasy, but enjoy some science fiction, favorite there is Dune. Have read all the Dune books and look forward to the Dune movie coming out this year. I own the two previous versions of the movie. My kindle is my preferred way of reading.

    I do like non-fiction, read about Grant not too long ago, and recently re-read the Art of War.

  24. Lobo says:

    I was intending make that point on behalf of Manny; now moot.

    WAXING PHILOSOPHICALLY

    Let me point out, however redundantly, that we all have 24 hours/day and at least some discretion as to how and when to spend a portion of that amount day for day; — either for personal/private-only pursuits, or on public engagement that is hopefully beneficial to the community at some level or in some form: such as sharing of information (that readers/interlocutors would not otherwise be exposed to) and expressing our viewpoints and ideas about issue we collectively and individually face, in furtherance of potential fixes and improvements.

    What is likewise variable across folks, and less subject to individual control even though it involves the same unit of measurement, is the balance of the lifespan.

    Whatever the unknown quantum, why not spend it wisely with legacy-considerations in mind? – Did I make a difference before I died? And, if so, was that impact a good one?

    What do you want to be remembered for?

    … after you have checked out … or have been checked out by Abbott et ilk, or otherwise?

  25. C.L. says:

    Manny, we have something in kind ! Frank Herbert books. If you haven’t already, don’t limit yourself to the Dune series (which got a tad ‘shark jumpy’ for me as they went along). Check out The Dosadi Experiment or Hellstrom’s Hive, etc.

  26. Manny says:

    Lobo, my favorite reply as to being remembered is Ozymandias by Shelly.

    The three most known persons in the world died very poor by how our society measures wealth. Two of the three gave up their wealth.

    Hermann Hesse wrote a novel about one of them. A very good book that I recommend to people.

  27. […] the Kuff focuses on the maskless mandate and the widespread negative reaction to […]