This week Gov. Kay Ivey's COVID-19 orders, which includes the mask mandate, is up for renewal. It comes as Texas and Mississippi has done away with mandates and have relaxed regulations to allow businesses to go back to full capacity.
We think this is far too soon - and many health experts agree.
According to a story from Politico, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Monday that she was “deeply concerned” that the recent decline in cases had seemed to stall as daily cases are still around the 70,000 mark. And health experts are also concerned about the new variants of the virus that are spreading and posing possibly an even bigger threat.
Politico also noted a Feb. 26 internal briefing document from the Federal Emergency Management Agency showed that four states, including Texas and Mississippi, were in the “red zone,” defined as having a positivity rate over 10 percent.
“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Walensky continued. “These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of Covid-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
Mind you, many people want to go back to normal, and many small businesses are hurting. Many people who supported the mask and other mandates have become cynical of the lack of enforcement, feeling that while people should be urged to still wear masks, distance and wash hands, it does little good to have a mandate.
We disagree. In fact, we think it has been successful. And - wait for it - the majority of people are following the orders.
If one looks around, the majority of people are wearing masks when they go out. Even though Walmart has become the national gauge of non-compliance, we would estimate 90 percent of the people in the store wears masks. There is distancing in lines, and many are purchasing with pick up service or allowing people early morning shopping to avoid crowds.
And we get calls from people who are upset when people are not following mandates and are allowing situations that crowd people. More people are even wearing masks to church, based on services we have seen online. Even in reopening the ballfields in Jasper, officials want to still follow COVID-19 guidelines as much as possible. People are holding off vacation travel and did hold off seeing others during the holidays.
It is discouraging that some people have not followed basic instructions (perhaps sometimes egged on by politicians across the nation who have used the pandemic for populist means to advance themselves or to put the almighty dollar for their rich donors ahead of public health). But this is not new, as resistance was reported during the 1918-19 flu pandemic. Just as people tried to profit off of World War II or would not do anything to help the war effort, the selfish will always be with us.
Perhaps we are so cynical with what we see wrong, that we have failed to see good people still try to follow government health mandates for the good of others. Doing so has resulted in a decrease of cases in recent months; the whole pandemic would have been worse had government not issued orders to guide the public.
Americans may now have enough vaccines by May, as production is being ramped up. We should recognize we are near the finish line and we may be in better shape by summer. No mandate will help unless people do the right thing - and we think the majority can hold out just a little longer until we are vaccinated.
The new variants pose a great threat to us, and the decline in cases has leveled off. We have lost more than 200 people in this county in the last year to COVID-19, as well as untold loss of productivity, finances, scheduled events, resources and time for those of us who survived.
This is a war of survival, and, like World War II, we must be in it for the long haul to prevent more death. Ending publicly led efforts now by ending mandates is political pandering to our greed and our exhaustion. We fear what this will lead to in Texas and Mississippi.
We urge that the state mandates be continued, and that citizens continue to mask, distance and wash hands.