In early March, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was quoted as saying, “Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end,” according to CNN (cnn.com). That quote, which was in reference to the federal and municipal COVID-19 safety measures that have kept Americans safe for this entire year, speaks volumes about the general population’s misunderstanding of the government’s role in public safety. Since COVID-19 vaccinations have become more widespread and cases numbers have gone down nationally, the desire to stay safe and wear masks must hold out in order to return to some form of post-pandemic normalcy in the coming months.
In Texas, despite warnings of a possible surge in cases, restrictions regarding COVID-19 safety have been lifted, including mask mandates and the full opening of businesses. This is extremely irresponsible, especially considering the fact that less than 10 percent of Texans were fully vaccinated at the time of the loosening, and that new coronavirus variants spreading could lead to further mortality and hospitalization (cnn.com). Sophomore Emily Dinh stated, “I just think that [lifting COVID-19 safety restrictions] is absolutely stupid and it will only cause the pandemic to further prolong. It gives people the idea that masks are unnecessary.” Thankfully, certain cities, federal establishments, and chain retail stores in Texas have reinstated their own mask requirements, but setting a precedent that encourages the public to recklessly infect their peers is quite concerning.
Restrictions are not just being lifted in Texas; Michigan is also facing its own qualms with COVID-19 related restrictions. Just as Michigan became the state hardest hit by the pandemic, lying just behind Florida in variant cases, the state made the move to reopen restaurants, event spaces, schools, and winter sports, according to a Detroit news station. White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Michigan’s Governor about the possible consequences of this, stating that he understands the late-pandemic optimism, but he urges people to “just hang on a little longer until you get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated” (clickondetroit.com). It is important for the population to power through the duration of the pandemic and for governments to act responsibly.
California, although safer than many other states in the US, must err on the side of caution in terms of reopening and loosening mask requirements. Governor Gavin Newsom has made mistakes in the past, opening businesses far too soon and with no scientific basis. According to ABC 7 News Sacramento, “California’s initial [stay-at-home] order lasted about seven weeks before Newsom began loosening the rules as the state avoided a huge surge in cases. What began as limited reopenings quickly snowballed, with counties given the go-ahead to allow restaurant dining, church services and other indoor activities and businesses” (abc7news.com). With many counties (including San Diego) phasing out of the Purple Tier into the less-severe Red Tier of COVID-19 cases, local and state leaders should remember past mistakes and keep mask mandates imposed, only opening businesses that are absolutely safe to open.
Lockdowns are undoubtedly negative. They cause business closure, isolation, unemployment, and general economic distress. According to the New York Post, “Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short- and long-term public health” (nypost.com). But, if the government is pushed to offer significant stimulus to small businesses, workers, and consumers, these effects can be mitigated. In order for this to happen, though, the government and its representatives need to be forced to take action and quit backtracking on basic promises.
It is clear that governmental neglect to enforce lockdowns is negatively impacting the nation’s progress in the pandemic. What is also acting as a roadblock to progress, which is often overlooked, is the role of corporations in avoiding COVID workplace regulation. For example, in North Dakota, a regional food distributor had “…failed to require masks in its warehouses, enforce social distancing rules or otherwise screen employees,” and workers were able to demand change by banding together and going on strike, according to TIME Magazine (time.com). Demanding change — both from the government and from workplaces — requires drastic action. It is vital that workers unionize and strike to demand COVID safety and adequate stimulus in businesses, and consumers demand safe protocols from their municipal, state, and federal governments.
At the end of the day, preemptive loosening of restrictions and mask mandates harms the public good, and public safety must be the first priority in any decision made by governments.