Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this piece are not a reflection of the views of Paw Prints as a whole. They are the sole views of the author. Paw Prints Weekly celebrates a diverse audience and staff, and it supports the declaration of duties and rights of a Journalist per the U.S. Constitution.
Texas’ school districts have had an interesting dilemma as of late; The governor of the state, Greg Abbott, has made an executive order to ban mask mandates across Texas. Districts that refuse to conform are being sued by the state, but the U.S. Department of Education is investigating the Texas Education Agency. What decision should the schools make and how will the families be affected?
Greg Abbott, at the very beginning of the pandemic, endorsed face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, since the vaccines arrived, Abbott revealed his true colors and released an executive order removing mask mandates in Texas and allowing businesses to open at 100 percent capacity. He stated that the reason Texas is ready to throw masks out is that vaccines have already paved the way for Texas to return to a sense of normalcy. However, at the time Abbott announced the order, only 7% of the population of Texas was fully vaccinated, leaving Abbott’s argument without a leg to stand on.
Abbott later banned businesses from asking for someone’s vaccine information, a direct contradiction to his statements of how vaccines were what allowed Texas to take off the mask. On top of that, he banned publicly funded businesses from mandating a COVID-19 vaccine, even if the vaccine had full FDA approval. If the vaccine was so effective that they were able to remove a large layer of protection against the disease, then why can’t businesses require or even ask if they had received the shot?
In May of this year, Abbott would make yet another order that no schools could mandate students to wear masks. Failure to comply could result in facing a fine of up to $1,000 for them. Some school districts, such as the Dallas Independent School District, fought back against the ban, and even went so far as to go to local courts and ask them to approve the mandate. Once they did, however, the Texas Supreme Court would shoot the idea down. Regardless, local courts kept making their own rules all across the state, and as a result, there are districts where masks are required directly adjacent to ones where the mandates are illegal. The situation has caused uncertainty for Texas families, who are scared for their children’s safety and unsure what the regulation for their district is.
If Abbott wants to prohibit mask mandates, then he will be directly opposing the U.S. Department of Education. The Department states that banning masks is harming disabled children due to their weaker immune systems compared to other children. The Department said that they will monitor what Texas does and is even “prepared to take action if state leaders prevent local schools or districts from implementing universal indoor masking”.
Herd immunity, which seems to be what Abbott thinks is going to happen, does not work if masses of children cannot receive the vaccine. Masks are one of the few ways children in schools can stay safe and avoid COVID-19. Not allowing schools to mandate them is going to lead to an increase in cases among children whose bodies cannot properly fight the virus, resulting in even more families losing their children due to a decision that was out of their hands.
If Abbott is firm on his no masks in Texas agenda, he needs to make a few changes beforehand. First, there has to be an agreed-upon rule for all businesses to follow. The varying rules from county to county are proving to be problematic, as families are worried about their safety going outside in their cities. Second, schools should revert to distance learning. The risk is far too high for kids to spread the disease to their friends or their family members with weaker immune systems. Third, vaccine mandates should be allowed and even encouraged, since they lower the chance to spread COVID-19 and was Abbott’s original point for removing the masks.
Politicians should not be using the pandemic as a political point. It is a disease that has killed over 70,000 in Texas alone. It is a problem that everyone needs to work together to solve, and with the different directions every entity in Texas has gone, it is hard to see Texas easily take on the pandemic.