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No More Masks… Would it Work?

According to the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic on March 11th, 2020. To slow the spread of COVID-19, many U.S. states began to enact mask mandates, stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. These restrictions stayed in place during the first surge in COVID-19 cases and the second surge in COVID-19 cases that occurred between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. One year after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, many states are deciding to or have removed their mask mandates, stay-at-home orders and travel bans. These restrictions have been lifted in numerous states because the daily number of new COVID-19 cases is declining across the United States.

However, there is concern among health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, about rolling back COVID-19 restrictions, including mask mandates. These concerns are raised because cases of more contagious COVID-19 variants from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa are popping up in various states. This is coupled with the increased potential for large and maskless gatherings during spring break, which runs from late March to early April. There is also the concern that the case count, hospitalizations and death toll from COVID-19 will increase in states that plan on or have already rolled back their mask mandates.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida did not have any statewide mask mandate. Over the summer of 2020, Florida became known as the COVID-19 epicenter in the United States. Since the passing of the second surge in COVID-19 cases in the United States, daily positive test results for COVID-19 began to decline not only in Florida but the whole United States. Those in favor of limiting COVID-19 related restrictions—including mask mandates—cite the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in both California and Florida as evidence. According to the Center, Florida has on average 9,018 cases and 150 deaths per 100,000 residents. The Center also stated that California has on average 8,918 cases and 138 deaths per 100,000 residents. California has arguably the most restrictive COVID-19 mandates, including mass non-essential business closures and stay-at-home orders. California Gov. Gavin Newsom also endorsed double masking, another COVID-19 mitigation tactic that was endorsed by the Center. According to CBS News, California passed this COVID-19 related milestone on December 25th, 2020. Whereas, Florida has yet to pass the two million cumulative COVID-19 case count.

On March 2, 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas repealed all COVID-19 related restrictions in Texas. According to CNN, this pullback included the statewide mask mandate. Similarly, all businesses in Texas were also allowed to open at full capacity, regardless of the type of business. However, many businesses would still require both customers and employees to wear masks.