As Governor Abbott Reopens Texas, Service Workers and Public Health Experts Worry
By Andrés Garcia
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order March 2 that lifted statewide mask-wearing and business capacity mandates. The executive order, which went into effect March 10, made Texas one of 15 states without any statewide COVID regulations in place. The executive order was met with mixed reception.
University of Texas Public Health Professor Dr. Marilyn Felkner feels that politicians are at a crossroads of competing priorities.
“What I hope people will focus on— and this is from a scientific standpoint— is, regardless of what the governor or the president or the county judge say, we know how COVID is transmitted,” Felkner said.
“We know that masks work, and that we can go about most of our daily activities pretty comfortably with a mask on.”
Felkner fears the executive order will place service industry workers in a double bind.
“You’re putting someone in a position of making a decision between earning a living and protecting themselves from COVID. [This] is exactly what we’re trying to avoid, so that is a conundrum that’s created by this decision,” she said
Marissa Macias, a retail worker in San Marcos, is frustrated by the course of action taken by Governor Abbott. She fears not only the spread of COVID, but also mistreatment from customers.
“We already have had a handful of customers who have come in that are unnecessarily rude about it,” Macias said. “I can only imagine how it’s going to be now.”
Many local businesses have vowed to keep their employees as safe as possible by continuing to enforce mask-wearing and by limiting the maximum capacity in their stores.
John Hensen, general manager of Crown and Anchor Pub in Austin, said his business operations are not beholden to politics but rather to global, national, and local public health recommendations.
“We feel that this is the right thing to do right now. If it’s not broken don’t fix it,” Hensen said.
A Crown and Anchor worker who asked to remain anonymous is immunocompromised and has yet to receive the COVID vaccine. She said she is grateful that her employer is prioritizing the safety of his employees and customers.
Crown and Anchor Pub remains open at 25% capacity inside with its outdoor patio operating at 75% capacity. It will also continue to mandate mask use indoors at all times and outdoors when not seated.
Felkner is hopeful about the future due in part to the moderately successful statewide vaccination rollout thus far.
“(The vaccine) is definitely a cause for hope and should relieve anxiety,” she said.