In a coronavirus update interview with CNBC on Friday, former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said he thinks that, for states and localities looking at easing up on coronavirus-related restrictions and public safety measures right now, face mask mandates should be the last one to be rolled back. “I think it’s the kind of thing we need to be doing around the country … at least providing a map of where we’re heading if the situation continues to improve without taking our foot off the brake all at once,” Gottlieb explained. Just don’t touch the face mask mandates yet.
He made those comments out of a belief by public health experts which holds that Americans need to start being told about how we get to the end of the pandemic. That they need to get a clear sense of how we get out of all this, else they’re likely to feel hopeless or cavalier enough that they might start ignoring the safety measures that have been in place for around a year now. Case in point: State leaders in Texas and Mississippi in recent days are starting to do exactly that, having announced their rollback of coronavirus measures including state-level face mask mandates. “We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement about the decision. “We are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.”
The move garnered a predictable wave of backlash pretty much immediately. For the obvious reason that we’re still, you know, in the middle of a pandemic. For his part, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN in recent days that the US really shouldn’t be talking about easing coronavirus-related restrictions at the state and local levels until the number of daily new cases in the country drops below 10,000 (“and maybe even considerably less than that”).
For some historical context, the last time the US hit that benchmark was way back in March of 2020. In spite of these and other states that are starting to look at prematurely rolling back measures like face mask mandates, however, here is one important point to keep in mind:
Just because that decision is made at the state level, that doesn’t mean you’ll no longer have to wear a face mask locally. For example, you still do if you shop at any of these retailers:
- Best Buy
Executive orders that interfered with peoples’ lives were the worst, but the only possible, intervention for much of the last year. Now, we are putting our focus towards rapid vaccine distribution. We are getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do.
— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) March 2, 2021
“There is no change at this time to the company mask mandate policy or any current safety protocols that are in place in our stores or any work locations to protect our customers and team members,” a spokesperson for Walgreens said in an email to CBS News. “We are following current CDC and OSHA guidelines regarding safety protocols.”