While states through the South, along with California, are having to shut down parts of their economies, societies, and potentially schools, Minnesota has a proven way it can significantly enhance its chances of staying open – wearing masks. We would bet there are a few states where they wish they would have been more respectful of that advice.
In a statewide order July 2, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is requiring those living in counties with more than 20 COVID-19 cases to wear a mask while in business or public places, with several exceptions. He also said he might be rethinking the opening of schools if the number of cases continues to rise.
“The mask order represents a remarkable turnaround for Abbott, who has long resisted a statewide requirement, even as the coronavirus situation has gotten worse than ever over the past couple of weeks in Texas,” the Texas Tribune reports. “We are now at a point where the virus is spreading so fast there is little margin for error,” Abbott said. Austin, Texas, estimates it is one week from its ICUs being full.
Abbott’s order is aimed at businesses, not individuals. Violators of the mask rule will receive a verbal ﬁrst warning with a $250 fine for second and subsequent oﬀenses.
In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an executive order allowing cities to implement ordinances requiring masks.
California has put teeth in its order for businesses to continue to operate that required social distancing measures and mask-wearing. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a three-week closure of bars, indoor restaurant dining areas, and other indoor venues for 21 of 58 counties.
Those counties that fail to comply could lose their state aid. California is sending out 200 state inspectors to enforce the law.
Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey ordered bars to shut down along with theaters and gyms June 29. This past week, the state health director declared that state health care facilities could activate their “crisis care standards.” These standards allow each facility to direct its limited resources toward patients most likely to survive.
Kansas Republican Gov. Laura Kelly issued an executive order last week requiring the use of masks “in stores and shops, restaurants, and in any situation where social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained, including outside. “The evidence could not be clearer: Wearing a mask is not only safe, but it is necessary to avoid another shutdown,” she said.
In a deeply conservative region of Missouri where Donald Trump won nearly 80 percent of 2016’s presidential vote, any attempt to force people to mask up was likely to backﬁre, Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley said in an interview.
Those residents cite personal freedom rights and fatigue with oppressive restrictions. “This is not Washington and it’s not New York. It’s an uphill battle to get people to mask up,” Stanley said.
Joplin City Council Member Anthony Monteleone, whose motion to require masks to be worn in the community was rejected told The Washington Post, “It’s shocking when something so simple to save lives becomes so polarized.”
Actions taken by these states will be repeated in Minnesota soon if we do not make every effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus now, including wearing masks. Earlier this month, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said a mask executive order was “on the table.” He did not say when the order could be issued, but it would most likely come if the state saw a spike in its COVID-19 cases.
It’s not just the government shutting down our economy that hurts our communities, it is the public’s perception of safety – if people don’t feel safe, many are voluntarily not going out and about.
“I’ve watched in alarm and dismay as the course of action recommended by almost all of our nation’s infectious-disease experts has been shunned by many of my fellow conservatives and Republicans…sending inconsistent messages about the importance of citizens wearing masks even as covid-19 spreads at record levels,” Karen Hughes, who was counselor to President George W. Bush and undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public aﬀ airs, wrote last week.
“When leaders said, ‘We are open for business,’ too many citizens heard ‘Life is back to normal,’ I understand the need to get the economy moving. People have to work to feed their families; small businesses and restaurants must be open to pay their rent and employees. But reopening successfully requires deliberate precautions.”
It is the people on frontlines of America’s economy – the grocery store workers, those in our local hardware stores, the post oﬃ ce workers, the pharmacies and our other businesses, who we wear masks for. It is to keep employees who work in our area manufacturing plants, and whose paychecks help support our community businesses, healthy and on the job.
We act with concern and thought for our medical staﬀ who could quickly be overwhelmed by an outbreak, working endless, exhausting hours. If we have fears, they should be for the continued health of these people, as well as our neighbors, friends and families.
If we are smart now, our schools can open in the fall. Do it for your child’s mental health and education.
“Keeping schools closed means that children suffer physically, emotionally, socially, and academically,” The Washington Examiner writes in an editorial. “It places an extraordinary burden on parents who have to figure out a way to balance homeschooling with work…. There is also no feasible plan to reopen the economy that does not first reopen schools. “
Wearing a cloth or surgical mask is eﬀective in reducing an infected person’s spread of the virus. We don’t need to wear a mask everywhere we go but in places where social distancing is not possible, where we may be in close contact with others while in public, we should wear one.
Face masks combined with handwashing, social distancing, and if you are sick staying home, all help slow the spread of the disease and will keep Minnesota open.