Some Texas Operators Keep Masks in Place
by David Klemt
Texas is less than a week away from opening “100 percent” according to Governor Greg Abbott.
Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and Texans aren’t fans of being told what to do.
Data shows an increase in coronavirus cases in Texas but that isn’t stopping Gov. Abbott from announcing all businesses can open at 100-percent capacity and the state’s mask mandate is no more as of March 10.
Political, Practical or Perilous?
Per Gov. Abbott, Texas have “mastered the daily habits to avoid getting Covid,” so it’s “now time to open Texas 100 percent.”
One of those habits, one would assume, is wearing a mask or other face covering to “avoid getting Covid,”
Doctors and health experts have been warning against complacency fueled by vaccines and cases dropping in some states. Another surge may be around the corner if people drop covid-19 safety measures in favor of a return to “normal” life.
Gov. Abbott’s announcement, therefore, calls into question his motivations: political, practical or perilous?
Some Operators Pushing Back
If we accept that one can’t tell a Texan what to do, we must apply that to restaurant and bar operators in the state.
Some Texas operators disagree with Gov. Abbott lifting of the mask mandate and are “100 percent” still requiring masks in their establishments post-March 10.
This message from Bobby Heugel, the operator behind Anvil Bar & Refuge, Tongue-Cut Sparrow, Better Luck Tomorrow and Squable in Houston, is straightforward. It’s also garnering plenty of support, with people thanking Heugel and pledging to spend their money at his businesses.
In response to a question by one commenter on the post, Heugel explains that the hospitality group is maintaining 50-percent capacity, socially distanced seating, and other CDC guidelines “until vaccination rates improve.”
Nickel City operations locations in Austin and Forth Worth. As the above statement makes clear, guests must wear masks inside their venues regardless of what Gov. Abbott says. Like Heugel’s, Nickel City’s statement is garnering support.
Whether the governor’s move proves wise or foolish will bear out in the coming weeks. However, the decision will likely once again put front-of-house workers at risk of hostile confrontations with guests who take wearing a mask as a personal attack on their liberty.
To be fair, Gov. Abbott isn’t going it alone in terms of rolling back a mask mandate. Mississippi, Alabama, Iowa and Montana have made similar choices.
Going a further step toward fairness, a total of 16 states don’t have mask mandates in place. In fact, some never did. What has drawn attention is that Texas is the largest state to do away with its mask mandate (and the second largest state in the US in terms of population and area).
What grabbed my attention are the responses from well-known and respected operators who have chosen to still require masks and other Covid-19-related health and safety guidelines, along with the support they’re receiving from the public for doing so.
Multiple vaccines, a seemingly downward trend in infection rates, and the lifting of restrictions don’t magically solve operators’ problems—they’re struggling, as are their employees.
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