Three weeks ago, the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott (R), ended the mask mandate and allowed businesses to resume operations at full capacity. Some experts criticized the decision as a bad move, with President Biden even accusing Abbott of having “Neanderthal thinking.” However, the latest data shows that Texas has seen a steady drop in coronavirus (also known as the CCP Virus, due to its suspected origin) infections and hospitalizations.
“Today, Texas recorded the lowest 7-day Covid positivity rate since that data began being calculated: 5.43%. We also recorded the largest daily number of vaccines administered to Texans: 342,849. More Texans getting vaccines will keep down the positivity rate,” Abbott said in a March 27 tweet. He also added that all vaccinations would always be voluntary.
While Texas’ coronavirus has been declining, the situation at the national level is the reverse. Nationwide infections rose by 7 percent during the previous week. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a White House press briefing that she remained “deeply concerned” about the infection trajectory and warned that if the pandemic is not brought under control soon, the country faces a risk of the epidemic curve rising again. She advised people to continue wearing face masks.
According to March 26 data from the CDC, Texas reported just 83 cases per 100,000 people for the previous seven days, compared with Democratic states like New York, which registered 225.2 cases despite having stricter coronavirus restrictions. Another Republican state, Florida, also fared better than New York, with 151.8 new cases per 100,000 citizens. Like Abbott, Florida Governor Republican Ron DeSantis has also been criticized several times for not mandating face masks or heavy business restrictions.
The Texas vaccination drive
Texas has made all adults eligible for vaccination, provided they are above 16. It means that almost 22 million of the state’s roughly 30 million people can now get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they choose to. Texas has become well-known for making vaccines open to all adults. Only the Pfizer shot will be available to 16 and 17 years olds. A guardian should accompany young adults to vaccination sites. Those who wish to get inoculated can sign up through medical clinics, pharmacies, and hospital systems.
However, the vaccination drive to achieve “herd immunity” is facing obstacles. Vaccine hesitancy for the experimental mRNA jabs is relatively strong in Texas, with 59 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of Democrats polled, unsure or planning not to be vaccinated. According to a KWTX report, Jon Ker, who sits on the State Republican Executive Committee, does not think vaccine hesitancy is based on politics.
“I don’t think it’s because they’re Republican or Democrat or Independent or nothing,” said Ker. “I think it’s an evaluation on their own personal basis what are the risks that they see in taking it.” Also, vaccines are said to be in short supply, and registering an appointment is apparently a cumbersome process, involving a frequent page refresh due to high traffic.
“[Expanding eligibility] will just help keep the momentum going for people getting vaccinated, because so far there’s been an outcry for more vaccines than we’ve had vaccines available… It’s just wonderful news that will help us get closer and closer to vaccinating enough people,” Dr. Diana Fite, president of the Texas Medical Association, told Texas Tribune.
This “enough people” is based on the China-centric World Health Organization (WHO) narrative that humans must be inoculated to achieve immunity since they redefined herd immunity on their website last year by removing natural immunity achieved through infection as a factor in herd immunity.
Meanwhile, Texas faces the rapid spread of the more infectious UK variants in places like Houston. A study led by Jimmy Gollihar from the CCDC Army Research Laboratory-South in Austin found that the number of UK variant cases in Houston is doubling every 6.9 days. The study did not find any E484K mutation (which decreases the immune response) in the samples. Still, researchers have warned that people infected with the variant are more likely to be hospitalized.
It remains unclear whether the current vaccines will be effective against newly emerging variants, as recent reports indicate that “the mRNA vaccines are 6- to 8-fold less effective against [the B.1.351] variant.”