We are Texans, and the concept of freedom is an essential piece of our identity. We all want the freedom to go out to eat and to socialize, the freedom for our economy and our schools to open without the fear of getting deathly ill, the freedom to use amazing science and vaccine developments to our full advantage. But taking away critical public health interventions that we know are working in the name of personal freedom won’t make our community safer, nor will it hasten our return to normalcy. The state’s decision on Tuesday to end the statewide mask mandate and increase business capacity to 100% is a threat to all of the sacrifices and progress we’ve made, as well as to everyone who has not yet received a vaccine. At best, Tuesday’s decision is wishful thinking. At worst, it is a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of state oversight of our power grid.
Every time COVID-19 public health measures have been pulled back, we’ve seen a spike in hospitalizations. If we start the climb now, we’d be starting from the highest starting point ever when it comes to our hospital population, an unacceptable and dangerous proposition. Even more troubling is the revelation that Houston has the unfortunate distinction of being the only city recording every major strain of COVID-19. Our positivity rate is still sky high and moving up, not down — we’re now at 13% positivity. We’re still seeing hundreds of new cases a day. With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, we’re finally inching closer to the finish line of this deadly, destructive pandemic — now is not the time to reverse the gains we’ve worked so hard to achieve. We’re able to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel now because of the common sense steps we’ve taken to prevent the spread of this virus, like wearing masks. We can’t take one step forward just to take two steps back.
History will remember those who took part in the unified effort to save lives in our community and pull us through this awful pandemic. It will also remember those who undermined and prolonged this crisis in the name of scoring political points with their base. Our Harris County community is smart — we can see through the politics of this. I know we will keep at it and continue to be good neighbors, good citizens, and do the right thing, including wearing masks. Let’s also reward those that do the same. Shop at businesses still requiring masks and keeping capacity low to protect their employees and their patrons.
We’ve been through so much, but we are so close. Keep holding on. Our success at beating this virus is all up to us now.