Customers at the home improvement store wear masks, which have become very politicized, to lower them under the chin to talk or remove them altogether.
In Houston’s upscale Montrose neighborhood, the multi-story Cafe Agora is full of people hungry for coffee, pastries, and conversation. It is difficult to spot an open seat inside or outside the patio. It’s also hard to spot anyone wearing something that looks like a face mask.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has come under fire for allowing bars, restaurants, cinemas and malls to reopen in early May. In June, he said Texas was “wide open for business.” At the end of July, more than four months after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a mandatory mask order is in place statewide – a reversal of Abbott’s original position that the government should not infringe on personal rights by telling citizens what to do.
But, with little enforcement except by some companies, some fear that Abbott’s reversals are too little, too late. As hospitals struggle and cases increase, much of ordinary life in Texas seems to go on as usual.
“We didn’t close early enough,” Texas Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat, said in a recent interview with ABC. ” [Abbott] did not order a statewide mask law early on. He didn’t give local officials the flexibility to do what they need to do in their own cities and counties.
Texas recently reported a record single-day death toll. Since the data recording started on March 4, there had been 5,877 Covid-related deaths in the state as of July 28.
According to the Covid Tracking Project, Texas had only registered 2,170 new tests per 1 million people as of July 23. That’s about 60,500 new tests in total for the state’s 29 million people. The total number of tests (which came back both positive and negative in the state) is 3,164,656, or less than 14%.
Despite these numbers, many businesses in Texas remain fully operational. Meanwhile, the masks, which health experts recommend to prevent transmission of the highly contagious virus, have become a symbol of America’s bitter political divide, with many Texas Republican officials avoiding them after Donald Trump long refused. wear one in public.
Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who has firmly refused to wear a mask during much of the coronavirus pandemic, said on Wednesday he had tested positive for Covid-19 and would go into quarantine during 10 days.
“It’s really ironic, because a lot of people have made a big deal out of the fact that I don’t wear a lot of masks,” Gohmert said in an interview with KETK-TV. “But in the past two weeks, I’ve worn a mask more than I’ve worn in the past four months.”
Abbott’s Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also often disagreed with the governor over masks and recently criticized the advice of one of America’s top public health experts, Dr Anthony Fauci. In an interview in March, Patrick said he would rather die than see the economy destroyed for his grandchildren.
“Let’s get back to work. Let’s come back to life, ”he says. “Let’s be smart about it, and those of us over 70, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”
Before Abbott announced the statewide order for masks, Diana Robles said she didn’t think the pandemic was taken seriously in Texas. Robles, a recent high school graduate and an essential worker at a Houston grocery store, works more than 40 hours a week.
“Since the pandemic, we have become busier. Our orders have quadrupled, ”Robles said.
“Once the mask law was implemented, I saw a difference. We can now refuse service to those who do not wear a mask, ”Robles said. “What scares me the most is that I could do everything right but I didn’t know if the others were. Something could have been done much earlier to prevent this. ”
Robles has been tasked with limiting paper towel and toilet rolls as well as defusing stressful situations with customers. She recounted some experiences with difficult clients.
“I saw a lady who wanted to return a ham. We told him that we do not accept returns during Covid. My manager is from Venezuela and has a bit of an accent. The client told him to “go back to her country” and threw the ham in her face, “Robles said. “Some customers don’t understand. I just wish people were considerate.
Marisol Galarza is a daycare center in Round Rock, Texas. Despite the surge in cases in the state, Galarza said the daycare was seeing new registrations every week.
“Our manager gives us the option to take breaks if we’re not comfortable, but we have bills so we can’t really do that,” she says.
Galarza’s workplace has implemented protective measures to prevent the spread of the virus, such as separating 6-foot children during naps, but Galarza says she remains nervous.
“Children wear their masks under their nose or under their chin,” said Galarza. “It’s so hard because you don’t want to tell them not to kiss their friends.”
Since the pandemic, Galarza has said she is considering a career change.
“It will not be sustainable. We’re going to be at high risk with high capacity classrooms. I wash my hands after everything I do and put on gloves. I see some teachers don’t even wash their hands.
Texas schools and universities are expected to resume in-person learning for the fall semester. The University of Texas has announced plans to start the football season on September 5 at 50% capacity, with around 50,000 fans in the stands. Nonye Imo, a resident doctor in Dallas, said the state’s response had been terrible.
“The economy has taken priority over human life. The desire to earn money has taken priority over human life, ”said Imo. “It’s terrible. Current officials who have escaped this answer must be dismissed. ”
Imo said she had already witnessed the havoc the virus had wreaked on herself and her colleagues.
“I was assigned to the ICU for the first month of my program. We have had to limit visitors so that people cannot visit family members who are seriously ill, ”said Imo. “But the audience I work with in the Covid unit is paying the price.”
Imo said it was an overwhelming time to enter medicine.
“I grew up seeing medicine as a calling, but it’s interesting that this idea is being tested so early in my career,” said Imo. “I’m ready to take the risk, but I didn’t think I should take it so soon.
Asked about the outlook for Texas over the next few months, she said, “The community spread rate is so high. The word pandemic isn’t just used to scare people. The media don’t blow it up. This is serious. “