Texans react differently to mask mandate lift

By Kara Dross and Satori Griffith

As of March 10, Texas’ statewide mask mandate has been lifted, allowing businesses to operate at full capacity. The decision was made public after Gov. Greg Abbott announced he planned to loosen the COVID-19 restrictions in Texas. Despite health officials still strongly emphasizing the need for face masks to contain the spread, Abbott said his decision was based around the need for businesses to have more customers. 

“Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities,” Abbott said during a March 2 statewide announcement while speaking to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. “Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100 percent.” 

At the time of the announcement, less than nine percent of Texas residents had been fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University data, as well as the state averaging  around 200 deaths per day. Critics said Abbott’s decision to loosen restrictions was made too soon and the executive order was dangerous for the state. Critics of the decision included President Joe Biden who said Abbott had made a “big mistake.” 

According to a poll taken on May 10, out of 157 students, 48 percent do not support Gov. Abbott’s decision of lifting the state wide mask mandate. While 40 percent are in favor of lifting the mandate. 

With the mask mandate coming to an end, businesses around Texas were faced with the decision of determining whether or not they should require face masks in their stores and restaurants. 

“I think businesses allowing people to choose if they want to wear a mask is a good thing,” said junior Christina Polk*, “It makes it feel like things are getting back to normal. I also feel as though it will bring in more business for some stores and restaurants. Lots of businesses have been struggling during the pandemic, so this could help. ” 

Large businesses including Target, Central Market, Home Depot and Uber also said they will continue to require masks despite the lifting of the mandate. On the other hand, businesses in Dallas such as 24 Hour Fitness, La La Land Kind Cafe and Eatzi’s Market & Bakery said they will be mask-optional moving forward. 

In the May 10 poll, 58 percent of students out of 158 said they will continue wearing masks even when it is not required in a store or restaurant. 

When the news that Eatzi’s would be mask-optional came out, students who were regular customers of the food market were suddenly faced with whether or not they would continue supporting the store. 

“I typically eat at Eatzi’s at least once a week, which is why it was incredibly disappointing for me to come across the ‘No Masks Required, God Bless America!’ sign last time I was there,” said junior Nancy McGinley*. “I still decided to go in and scope out the area, checking to see if people were actually not wearing masks and if I felt comfortable enough to grab my mac and cheese. There were about six people in the store and half of them were not wearing masks, so I immediately walked out.”

With this news, McGinley’s frustration grew to the point where she decided to no longer support Eatzis while their store is mask optional. Like McGinley, 30 percent of students in a poll of 157 total students, taken on May 10, said they do not feel comfortable entering a mask optional store or restaurant. 

“I refuse to give my business to a company that disregards the lives of the 45 percent of Americans that are considered at-risk for complications from COVID-19,” McGinley said “Although there are more and more people getting vaccinated each day, there are still many who are either too scared to get it or who do not have access to it.”

After trying to reach out to Eatzi’s Market & Bakery through numerous emails, visits to the sore and calls, no one replied to our many requests for an interview. 

But Eatzi’s decision to be mask-optional has not hindered their business. Instead, it attracted many people who share a similar mindset around mask regulations, considering everyone in the store was not wearing one. Unlike Eatzi’s Market & Bakery, Trader Joe’s, a grocery store with several locations in the DFW area, is still requiring their staff and customers to wear masks upon entering the store.  

“I do not want to support a company that is okay with taking the risk of spreading the virus and potentially hospitalizing or killing someone,” McGinley said, “I obviously do not like wearing a mask, but it is not a hard thing to do. Masks work.”

*Names have been changed at the request of the student

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