Opinion: Masks and patience are the keys to returning to normal


Michael Cuviello, Editor-in-Chief

While leadership in the United States remains divided on the solutions to the current COVID-19 pandemic, with states and cities all using different tactics to combat the coronavirus, it is important to not base decisions on what is convenient or makes one feel better. 

With nearly 5 million cases over 157,000 American lives lost to COVID-19, according to a live count being conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), choosing the proper course to combat it has significant long-term implications for all citizens.  

Initially, when the pandemic was at its worse nationally, Texas had been spared from much of the outbreak’s toll and was trailing other highly populous states by a wide margin in both cases and fatalities. 

On March 13, Gov. Greg Abbott asked that residents follow CDC guidelines. Abbott defined the guidelines for services such as grocery shopping, exercising and hunting. What was considered an essential, was ultimately left up to the counties. 

“This is not a stay-at-home strategy, Abbott said. This is a standard based upon essential services and essential activities. 

Eleven days later, on March 24, the city of El Paso issued a stay at home order to its residents. 

“We must protect the health and safety of this community. We cannot wait until it is too late, so we must continue working to stay ahead of the wave of cases and help flatten the curve by suppression of this virus,” said El Paso Mayor Dee Margo. “It is very important that residents and businesses cooperate to make this effort as successful as possible to keep our community healthy.” 

One of the significant issues with all these mandates and orders was that face coverings could not be made mandatory. 

Under the executive orderissued by Abbott April 27, individuals were encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings, but no jurisdiction could impose a civil or criminal penalty for failure to wear a face covering. 

May 1, Texas began its reopening phase as President Donald Trump pushed for all states to reopen their economies, with Abbott continually acting on the president’s bidding. 

By May 18, bars had reopened, and restaurant capacities were expanded. By June 3, all businesses could operate at 50% capacity. The push to reopen and get people in establishments was moving at a rapid pace, with still no statewide mask mandate. On June 12, restaurant capacity had expanded to 75%. Within four days, on June 16, cases in the state of Texas had doubled per day to about 4,000 cases. 

Within two weeks of the expanded capacity of restaurants and bars being at 50%COVID-19 cases had exploded to four times the amount they were at the initial reopening of the state. 

On June 26, Abbott closed bars once again and reduced restaurant capacity, as cases in Texas continued to rise, while other states’ cases were going down. Finally, on July 2, Abbott relented and ultimately issued a statewide mask mandate. 

Unfortunately, much of the damage had already been done in the haste to reopen the Texas economy. Texas is one of the top three hardesthit states by coronavirus, along with being the fourth state with the most active COVID-19 cases in the country. 

Complicating the issue further, there are people, including the current president of the U.S., that have ridiculed wearing masks as unnecessary and a personal choice. 

Some have gone as far as claiming it is a constitutional right not to have to wear a mask. The problem with that concept is that your choice affects other people’s bodies and shows a lack of compassion for your fellow citizens 

“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.” 

Case study after case study has shown that masks do offer higher level of protection against COVID-19, compared to no maskIt is not the mark of the beast or some alien plot to take away your rights. It is an extra level of protection designed to reduce the spread of a virus that has decimated our country. 

So, while masks are by no means 100 percent effective, why would a person not want to improve their odds of not getting or spreading a virus even if only by a moderate chance? 

Even with all precautions being taken, there could be some level of spread, so every little bit that we can do should be considered worth it. 

Any slowdown of this virus until a vaccine is developed will save lives in the long run. Sacrifices of not being in ordinary crowd situations short-term, far outweigh the alternative. 

The governor’s inaction and haste are not the sole reason for the state of Texas’ rapid increase in cases and deaths. We, the people, chose to ignore common sense and put COVID-19 concerns away for our own comfort rather than being diligent. Many flocked to bars and restaurants to congregate and after a few drinks and laughs, rarely does a bar make person long to social distance. 

So have patience, social distance and put on your mask. Do not do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones and the ones whose lives you put at risk. 

Michael Cuviello may be reached at [email protected]