UTA students react to Gov. Greg Abbott lifting the mask mandate, opening businesses at full capacity

Students wear face coverings on the first day of classes Aug. 26, 2020, on the University Center mall.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order to end the statewide mask mandate and open businesses at 100% capacity left many students feeling confused and upset.

The order will go into effect March 10, and those who do not want to wear face masks will no longer be fined or penalized, according to the executive order. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley lifted the county’s mask mandate Tuesday.

But even with the order, many students said they will keep wearing their masks while in public.

“I will be continuing to wear masks until this virus is gone,” creative writing sophomore Mary Nelson said.

Nelson called Abbott’s decision “poor” and said it makes them “uncomfortable.”

“I don’t think that it’s good for the well-being of all of the citizens in Texas,” they said.

Political science freshman Esther Odidi said Abbott’s decision is “the worst decision,” since there are still many active COVID-19 cases statewide.

According to the Texas Department of Health Services, there have been more than 206,000 confirmed cases in Tarrant County, with over 15,000 active cases. Over 2,600 citizens in Tarrant County died from the coronavirus. Statewide, there have been almost 2.3 million total cases, with over 154,000 still active and over 43,000 deaths.

Odidi lives with her family and said her mother, who works as a nurse, has been working extra hours to keep patients safe.

“Now, they’re just lifting everything as if everything is OK, throwing the hard work of not only her but other doctors and nurses, people who have sacrificed so much to keep not only themselves and their family safe but for the whole state,” Odidi said.

Advertising junior Gabriela Mata said she did not think the decision would happen since COVID-19 restrictions have been stringent in every state.

Since the decision will not be in effect until March 10, she suspects that a federal regulation may be announced to prevent Abbott’s executive order.

History senior Asma Saleh found out about Abbott’s decision from a client at a law firm where she works. The client did not wear a mask and told her that the mandate was already lifted when they were told to wear a mask.

Saleh said masks are undeniably helpful. Although many people argue that Texas still has a lot of COVID-19 cases even with the mask mandates, Saleh said the three main problems are people not wearing the masks right, not always wearing the masks and not following the other precautions.

“The CDC has put it for a reason,” she said. “It’s not like they do it because they want us to suffocate or have trouble breathing.”

Kaylie Le, public relations and advertising junior, said her parents come from Vietnam, where masks are normal in everyday life. That background influences her perspective that masks work.

Le said she had a feeling about Abbott’s decision when she saw his tweet about an upcoming “big announcement” Tuesday morning.

While she does not think Texas is ready to open businesses at 100% capacity or lift the mask mandate, the state never feels like it is in a pandemic, she said.

“I think it’s better if he would have waited until vaccinations rolled out more,” Le said.

Nelson said they have dined in at restaurants during the pandemic. However, they keep their mask on unless they are eating.

Saleh said the virus is easily contracted at restaurants since people often come in with large crowds.

“They eat at restaurants thinking, ‘We’re eating now so we can take off our masks,’ which sounds like a sound argument until you realize that the waiters don’t always clean the tables right after it,” she said.

Mata said she thinks the pandemic is almost like the flu now, and businesses have to come back soon because that was how businesses were during the flu season.

Saleh said when she’s out jogging, people usually do not wear their masks, but she pulls her mask up every time she passes other people.

“Now, I’m gonna go out, for example, jogging even less because I don’t wanna risk passing by people that I know won’t be putting their masks on,” she said.

Le said she doesn't care what other people think of her and would rather be “safe than sorry” by wearing a mask.

“It’s a free country,” Le said. “Whether you decide to not wear a mask or whether you decide to wear a mask, it’s ultimately up to yourself and what you think, but I will still wear my mask.”

@DangHLe

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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