The Corner

Politics & Policy

Yup, Still Waiting for the Maskless Texan Apocalypse

A man wearing a protective face mask walks past an illustration of a virus, in Oldham, England, August 3, 2020. (Phil Noble/Reuters)

The day before Texas’s statewide mask mandate ended, March 9, Texas had 5,119 new cases of COVID-19, and the seven-day average for new cases was 3,971. On that day, the state had 126,404 active cases of COVID-19. As of March 9, the seven-day average for new deaths was 104.

Yesterday, Texas had 2,906 new cases, and the seven-day average for new cases is 2,815. As of yesterday, the state had 96,640 active cases of COVID-19. As of yesterday, the seven-day average for new deaths was 81.

When Texas governor Greg Abbott announced the decision, I argued that he and other state officials were not crazy or exhibiting “Neanderthal thinking.” I noted that masks were not disappearing from public life in Texas. Major grocery chains and Walmart and Target still required them, as did many public-school districts, some localities, and so on. Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso would require them in city-owned buildings.

Since early March, I have noted that Texas COVID-19 statistics keep gradually getting better instead of worse, the opposite trend of what many mask advocates and all-purpose critics of Texas expected. Every time, folks on social media told me that it’s just too early to tell, and that the catastrophic consequences of the rescinding of the Texas statewide mask mandate are just around the corner. And yet, here we are, a month later, and all of the measuring sticks show significant improvement.

I am sure many people will declare that the huge crowd at yesterday’s Texas Rangers game is a potential “super-spreader” event. Before the event, President Biden called the stadium and state policies “not responsible.” And maybe yesterday’s large attendance will turn out to be a bad decision. But some other large gatherings, where people intermittently followed social-distancing guidelines if they followed them at all, did not turn into super-spreader events, like the crowds of thousands of people around the Super Bowl in Tampa. This pandemic is unpredictable, and the data rarely line up perfectly with people’s expectations or yearning for confirmation of their partisan preferences. By far the sharpest increase in cases occurring right now is in Michigan, where the masking and lockdown policies have been comparably strict.


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