On Tuesday (March 2), governors of Texas and Mississippi announced their states would be lifting COVID-19 restrictions in response to an early decline in hospitalizations and positivity rates. Experts warn it’s too soon, and for some of the most vulnerable groups, the decision is putting them at greatest risk.
“All Texans know the safe practices,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote, ending a series of tweets detailing the restriction lift. He made the announcement at a news conference, boasting that all businesses could go reopen at 100% capacity, and that the statewide mask mandate that had been in place since last summer would be lifted starting March 10.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves made a similar announcement, except that the restrictions would be lifted as soon as Wednesday (March 3).
“Starting tomorrow, we are lifting all of our county mask mandates and businesses will be able to operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules,” Reeves tweeted. “It is time!,” he added.
Both states are currently recovering from a historic winter storm that left millions without power or water for over a week. Jackson, Mississippi residents have reported being without clean water for two weeks, and some Texans are awaiting repairs to their homes from burst pipes.
Each state has large populations of Black and Latino people, making the rollback on COVID-19 restrictions is a decision that puts these communities and other vulnerable groups at high risk for a surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Additionally, Black people and other people of color are more likely to have jobs that are considered essential, increasing the risk of getting COVID-19 while working to pay bills amidst the economic fallout of the pandemic. Other vulnerable groups such as those with low incomes or underlying medical conditions, are also at increased risk without mandated protections.
Experts recently warned that the country needs at least two more months of pandemic restrictions to ensure progress wouldn’t be erased by overzealous state leaders.
Officials in the healthcare field have cautioned residents in these states to remain vigilant, and reminded business owners they can still require or suggest masks to be worn by customers.
The CDC still recommends mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing as effective measures people can take to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
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