Irving—Governor Abbott announced Texas would no longer have a mask mandate and allowed businesses to open to 100 percent capacity on Tuesday, March 2. While Texans may continue to wear masks, this announcement has sparked discussion on whether a mask requirement versus freedom to choose to wear masks will impact Covid-19 numbers.
The following are the opinions of some Irving residents, speaking about their reactions and experiences.
Rory Etienne is a student at Northlake College and activist in the Irving community.
“As an individual, I am deeply concerned and highly disagree with Abbott’s decision to end the mask mandate,” Etienne said. “I completely understand why individuals want the mask taken out of their lives. Most individuals are very patriotic [and value] individual rights. However, we have seen that, when we are faced with a health crisis, individualism becomes second for the establishment of safety for the community at large.
“I think that Governor Abbott opened up the state too quickly. Once more of the population has been vaccinated, I think we would be safe. But right now, the state does not have the capacity to vaccinate people quickly enough to provide that safety.
“I will continue to wear a mask out of concern for loved ones who are critically ill. It comes down to an expression of common decency and empathy for others.”
Bill Holcomb, long time resident of Irving, agrees.
“I disagree with Governor Abbott on the mask changes and on opening everything to 100 percent capacity,” Holcomb said. “People are still waiting to get vaccinated, so there is not any reason to jump the gun and speed things up. We still have a choice to wear a mask but the lifting of the mandate may give people a false sense of security.”
Heather Purviance approaches the subject with a different perspective, putting the focus on individual choice.
“I agree with Abbott’s decision to end the mask mandate and open up businesses to 100 percent,” Purviance said. “I believe the choice of how to protect oneself and how to protect one’s business should be left up to the individual and business owners. I will continue to wear a mask where the businesses require it, and I will wear my mask to church, because we have some higher risk people there.
“We have seen great economic trauma due to mandates limiting how businesses are allowed to operate. This has especially hit local businesses. It is time to allow businesses to decide what risk they are willing to take and allow patrons to decide if they will continue to patronize those businesses. I think people are drastically overestimating how much lifting the mandate will impact the safety of the community and COVID numbers. I think businesses will continue to require masks and many people will continue to wear them.”
Nafisa Gagen is a public school teacher in the Irving ISD district.
“I think lifting the mandate is too soon.” Gagen said. “I will continue to wear a mask. I think it helps. I have not even gotten a cold this year, so I think it helps us protect each other from viruses.
“I do agree that businesses should be allowed to open back up. I know they have been hurting economically. However, I will not be going to crowded places, except my classroom. I am glad the school district is continuing to require masks, as far as I know.”
Crystal Durst owns Aunt Cissy’s restaurant on O’Connor Boulevard.
“I believe everyone should have their own choices,” Durst said. “I think if a company wants to allow people without masks in their business that is their prerogative. At our restaurant, people will continue to wear masks. I do not want to risk the health of the staff, and equally as important, I do not want to risk the health of the customers. As a protective measure, I am going to continue to require masks.
“I can definitely see a positive economic impact for opening businesses at full capacity. I think restaurants have made changes to their spaces by now to allow for more safety between the tables. I do think allowing businesses to have more customers is a positive change.”
“I wonder if people are going to be more fearful about visiting busy establishments. I think opening to 100 percent may have a negative impact on businesses. Everyone can choose if they want to go into a busy restaurant. I think it will be interesting to see how this turns out. I would prefer to visit a restaurant with masks required and a little more space between tables.”
Don Pridemore is suspicious of the timing of the mandate’s lifting.
“I think it is premature to lift the mandate right before spring break and St. Patrick’s Day, both of which people like to gather together,” Pridemore said. “I think these have the potential of being super-spreader events. I think you really need to follow the money when it comes to the decision.
“I feel like Governor Abbott just mailed it in and did not do his job. I think there is no science that supports this. I feel like this is just deep conservative rhetoric rather than the health of Texans. I feel this decision was based on lobbyists complaining, not the constituents of Texas giving their opinion.”
Pridemore is concerned about COVID-19 and the mutations of the virus.
“This virus wants to infect people,” Pridemore said. “I think we will have another huge spike in cases, and we will need to be shut down again. I worry that we are not to the darkest part, yet we are throwing a party like it is all over. We have not seen the decline in numbers or getting most people vaccinated. It is not time to open everything up yet.
“I will continue to wear my mask. Wearing a mask protects other people. I know people do not want to wear masks, really. But Texans are known for being neighborly and taking care of each other. What better way to take care of each other than to keep the people around us safe?”