Abbott lifts mask requirement starting March 10


Alyssa Muprhy

The Texas Education Agency released new guidelines for schools upon Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to end the state’s mask mandate on March 10. “Under this updated guidance, a public school system’s current practices on masks may continue unchanged,” TEA said in a news release. “Local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy.” In Frisco ISD, there’s been no change in policy as of Thursday, March 4, 2021 as freshman Ny’el Harris and the rest of the students and staff on campus are still required to wear masks.

By Trisha Dasgupta, Liberty High School - TX

The mask mandate in Texas will be no more starting March 10, after Governor Greg Abbott has announced on Tuesday that Texas will fully reopen and the state-wide mask mandate will be repealed, with businesses and buildings allowed to open at 100 percent capacity.

“Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities,” Abbott said in his statement. “Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100 percent.”

As of Wednesday, Frisco ISD has no clear plan as to how the announcement will affect the COVID-19 mitigation plan, but masks will be enforced in school buildings until further notice.

“Frisco ISD will make a determination regarding our Disease Mitigation Guidelines after weighing state guidance and the input of local health experts and medical advisers,” FISD spokesperson Meghan Cone said via email. “TEA often issues both requirements and recommendations. It is unclear what their guidance will be at this time.”

But on Wednesday, the Texas Education Agency released new guidelines for schools: “Under this updated guidance, a public school system’s current practices on masks may continue unchanged. Local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy.”

As of Wednesday evening, Frisco ISD has not released a statement regarding TEA’s new guidelines. However, starting March 10, all businesses will be able to open at full capacity, mask fines will not be enforced, and social distancing will not be enforced in public areas. Many health and medical professionals have voiced their concerns about the repeal of these mitigation protocols, including Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, the director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

“The fact that things are headed in the right direction doesn’t mean we have succeeded in eradicating the risk,” Dr. Meyers said in a statement to the Associated Press. “Masks are one of the most effective strategies to curb the spread.”

The CDC has also addressed the decision to reopen Texas.

“I think we at the CDC have been very clear that now is not the time to release all restrictions,” Director of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, said in a statement to the White House press corps. “The next month or two is really pivotal with how this pandemic goes as we scale up vaccinations, we really do need to decrease the amount of the virus that is circulating as we are trying to vaccinate all of the public.”

Although it isn’t clear as to how the announcement will affect Frisco ISD schools yet, many students work in businesses that will be affected by the removal of the mask mandate.

“I definitely believe it was too soon to repeal the mask mandate,” senior Emma Gow said. “Although it’s scary, I think a lot of people will be able to do their part by staying home unless necessary and continuing to wear their masks.”

Gow works at Chick-fil-A, making her an essential worker during this pandemic. The removal of the mask mandate increases her concerns for safety, and she doesn’t feel ready to work without proper guidelines yet.

“I think a lot of us at work aren’t ready to work without masks, it will still be a while until we work without them,” Gow said. “It will be a little concerning with more and more customers coming in without masks, but we will do our best to still make it a safe and comfortable environment for everyone.”

Acknowledging the coronavirus is still prevalent in Texas, Abbott wants the onus to be on individuals and not the state.

“Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed,” Abbott said in a news release. “[Tuesday’s] announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others. With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.”

This story was originally published on Wingspan on March 3, 2021.