Will Fort Bend shed its "mask"?

SESHADRI KUMAR
By SESHADRI KUMAR

Following the Center for Disease Control’s momentous decision last week ending the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people, pro-mask media and experts are faulting CDC for its “confusing” guidance.

The confusion seems to be among the businesses and other entities who can continue the mask requirement if they want. So some are abandoning the masks and some others are not.

Fort Bend County Judge KP George, however, is silent on the latest CDC guideline.

Asked if the county would lift the mask mandate in county premises, there was no response from his office or the Fort Bend County Health Authority.

George did not endorse Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order rescinding the statewide mask mandate effective March 15, which allowed businesses, organizations and facilities to increase their capacity to 100 percent. The new CDC guidelines received a mixed reception last week.

While businesses and a section of the general public welcomed the decision, George chose to keep the restriction, by continuing the mask mandate at county facilities.

Earlier, when the governor relaxed the lockdown and allowed restaurants and bars to open up to 50 percent of their capacity, George was reluctant to implement that order.

He posted on his Facebook page a survey to get community input asking if people agreed or disagreed with Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order.

George has posted a long diatribe as a prelude to the survey: “The global pandemic isn’t man made, but the decisions coming out of the Governor’s office in Austin are. Too often, last-minute statewide directives fly out of Austin that affect the lives and livelihoods of every man, woman, and child in the State of Texas. Whether unilaterally closing secure absentee ballot locations a few days before Early Voting or haphazardly opening up commercial enterprises like bars, confusion and chaos seems to be the constant from the Governor’s office as opposed to calm, collected, and common-sense public policy....The top priority for Fort Bend County is a fast economic recovery without compromising the safety and wellbeing of our residents. I know our residents make smart decisions, and I rely on their valuable input in the decision making process. I have always said my decisions will be based on the science, data, expert opinions, and community input. While consulting with the respective medical authorities and reviewing the data, I am issuing a survey for bar owners to fill out, so I can ensure your voices are heard during this major process. Please fill out the survey to provide your feedback.”

When the mask order came into effect, the CDC’s decision was believed to be based on science and data and those who questioned the scientific basis for mask’s effectiveness in preventing the spread of the pandemic, were dubbed science deniers.

Now, the same CDC, and that too under the Biden administration, is saying that the vaccines are working and ditch the mask if you are fully vaccinated.

Are those reluctant to give up the mask mandate are not science deniers?

Individuals, on their own perception, may choose to keep the mask, but government bodies and big businesses cannot assume that the CDC is wrong in loosening the mask restriction. Now, some big shopping giants are dropping the mask requirement and some others are keeping it.

At least in Texas, when President Biden criticized Governor Abbott’s March decision to reopen the state 100 percent as “Neanderthal thinking” and experts predicted a third wave of the pandemic, data has proven them all wrong. The positivity rate has dropped to a record low of 3.72 percent in the state.

In Fort Bend County, the active cases are barely 600 as of now.

Fort Bend County reported 11,933 new cases in January, 6,132 new cases in February, 4462 in March, 2,337 in April and as of May 16, new cases totalled 1,047.

Covid-19 patients in Fort Bend ICU are in single digits 3 or 4 and in general ward, 21 as of today.

On top of it, the county has bragging rights to say Fort Bend is top in the percentage of fully vaccinated people.

What more is needed for the county to say good bye to masks?

Update: Fort Bend County seems to have lifted the mask mandate, after all, following the Governor's executive order. On May 19, a visit to the Fort Bend County East End Annex tax office on Texas Parkway in Missouri City was like a breeze. The usual temperature check and customary COVID-19 questions by two employees were missing. No sign of mask requirement either.

City of Missouri City, Sugar Land and Fort Bend ISD immediately acknowledged the governor's order, but not a beep from Fort Bend County.