AUSTIN, Texas — On March 2, the day Gov. Greg Abbott announced Texas would soon be lifting its statewide mandates regarding coronavirus restrictions, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown issued a letter to the governor urging him to keep the statewide mask mandate in place.
"Supported by our public health professionals, we believe it would be premature and harmful to do anything to lose widespread adoption of this preventative measure," the letter reads. "Scientific studies have shown repeatedly that the widespread wearing of facemasks slows down the spread of the virus. Public health organizations around the world, including our own public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have documented how the combination of wearing facemasks, keeping the physical distance of at least 6 ft., and frequent handwashing are most effective at reducing the spread of disease."
Following Abbott's Tuesday announcement, Adler released another statement:
“Wearing a face mask while in public or within closed spaces remains one of the most effective, proactive measures anyone can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus according to the US Center for Disease Control.
“We as a state should be guided by science and data, which says we should keep the mask mandate. Too much is at stake to compromise the positive outcomes we have seen with over-confidence. Our priorities should continue to focus on the further opening of schools and businesses, but we must do everything we can to ensure the success of those two goals.
“While hospitalizations in the Austin-area continue to decline, the number of vaccinations is not where it needs to be.
“I, along with the Mayors from Houston, Dallas and San Antonio are calling upon the Governor not to create any ambiguity or uncertainty about the importance of wearing a mask by changing the rules at this time.”
On Thursday, it was revealed Abbott was considering lifting the statewide orders, with an announcement forthcoming. The requirement has been in place since July, when case numbers first surged in the state.
But as more Texans get vaccinated against COVID-19, the governor was looking at when to stop all executive orders related to COVID-19, including a policy that rolls back business capacity when COVID-19 patients exceed 15% of hospital capacity.
Austin Public Health also released a statement Thursday evening:
"Despite the tireless work from our many staff and volunteers administering vaccines, our community is still months away from reaching herd immunity. While we diligently work to vaccinate everyone over the coming weeks and months, it continues to remain incredibly important to keep wearing your mask, watching your distance, and washing your hands. Austin Public Health remains committed to protecting the health of our community, but doing so requires community involvement and cooperation. Our residents have done a great job of keeping our cases comparatively low, and that was not by accident or luck, but by following public health recommendations and guidance."
Abbott has previously come under fire from his own party over the mask order, but has argued the mandates were aimed at preventing further lockdowns in Texas.
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