This month, the Governors of Texas and Mississippi announced they will be ending their state-wide mask mandates. There are 11 other states that do not require a mask mandate, Tennessee being one of them. These states have not required masks across the state, instead leaving the decision up to individual counties.
Different governors all have similar reasoning behind their decision. Governor of Texas Greg Abbott announced that the mask mandate – set in action July 2020 – was to be terminated March 10 of this year. He cited a decline in COVID-19 rates as a primary reason.
“We know what we need to do, and it doesn’t require a government mandate to do it,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said.
Governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves also argued that COVID-19 cases have been decreasing, and credited vaccine distribution to his decision.
While the idea of the pandemic going away is encouraging, the question of safety remains. The day after Texas lifted its mask mandate, 5,000 new cases were reported. However, it is important to consider that symptoms often develop days after someone has been infected; individuals likely did not contract the disease and test positive only one day after the announcement.
Nevertheless, the Center for Disease Control is still strongly encouraging masks and social distancing. Director Rochelle Walensky reminded the public that, “cases in the country are leveling off at rates just on the cusp of potential to resurge.”
Her concern was reiterated by infectious disease experts, who stated that changes in such consistent behavior could delay the departure of COVID-19.
President Biden also agreed with her statement. In a recent press conference, he encouraged the American people to continue following guidelines, and called the lifting of mask mandates, “a big mistake.”
“The last thing we need is neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything’s fine,” Biden said.
His strong words have caused disturbances among his opposing party. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the President’s words by saying his words were a “reflection of his frustration.” She also explained that the President was comparing the Governors’ decision to neanderthal “behavior” rather than thinking.
However, Republican officials are not satisfied with Psaki’s explanation. Lieutenant Governor of Texas called the President a “hypocrite,” and Governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves compared the experience to a negative comment Hillary Clinton made in her campaign against President Trump in 2016.
Although there is turmoil among the government officials of America, Tennessee Tech requires masks across campus, and encourages each student to follow safety guidelines.