The National Association of Social Workers – Texas Chapter (NASW/TX) is deeply disappointed by Governor Abbott’s decision to remove the mask mandate in Texas. While the Governor does include provisions that allow counties to take additional steps should their hospitalization rates rise, illness and death should not drive our public policy. Instead, Governor Abbott should follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and maintain the requirement that masks be worn in public. The CDC guidance is based on science and the best tactics in stopping the spread of COVID-19 As federal mandates for masks remain on public transportation “into, within, or out of the United States,” Texas should keep those requirements for our public spaces as well.
As of March 2, Texas is still seeing an average of over 7,200 new cases a day, and while this number has dropped over recent months, we are not at the finish line yet and must remain diligent. NASW/TX strongly agrees with President Biden’s assessment of the situation: “…these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms.” In addition, three out of the four COVID-19 task force medical advisors to Governor Abbott were not consulted on this change, leading us to question whether this decision was based on medical or political input.
Social workers are often considered frontline healthcare workers, and many are eligible for the vaccine, but Texas data shows that only 7 percent of the population has received the vaccination, indicating that many social workers not considered frontline (and some who are but who are unable to acquire the vaccine) have not been vaccinated. While high risk groups like teachers and daycare workers were just added to the priority list, their late inclusion points to low vaccination rates among these workers. Other vulnerable workers like grocery store employees, municipal employees and innumerable others are still at high risk to contract COVID-19 as well, and the impact to communities of color in Texas has been devastating.
If you’d like to take action, you can CONTACT Governor Abbott and share your concerns regarding the removal of the mask mandate. Please remember that businesses, schools and other private and local organizations, buildings and spaces are allowed and encouraged to maintain any safety measures they feel are appropriate, including a requirement to wear a mask.Will Francis, LMSW He/Him/His Executive Director National Association of Social Workers – Texas Chapter