Someone shaking their head side to side last week wondered when we stopped working together.
Instead of pulling together, the person mused, we’re pulling apart.
This subject has been a well-traveled road in recent years, but it is front and center when it comes to the pandemic.
We are sinking under another rapid rise in cases, back to daily triple digits in Taylor County.
What advice should we follow? What level of authority is best?
The Abilene ISD just a few weeks ago stated wearing masks was “optional.” Our governor, not any health organization, was cited as their authority, given his statewide ban on mask mandates. Gov. Greg Abbott had announced a $1,000 fine for a violation, but how that would affect school districts wasn’t clear.
Then came a local town hall event, at which our local health leaders greatly emphasized the danger of backing off safety measures, promoted vaccinations and stated the Delta variant was big trouble.
After that, the school district changed its stance, saying masks were “strongly recommended.”
That carries more punch. Fewer people choose “optional” for anything. “Strongly recommended” is not a political statement. It means the school year could go more smoothly if everyone was on the same page. Works in the classroom.
Cases have escalated and the district now is wetting its finger to see which way the wind is blowing. The AISD began surveying parents, What do you want us to do?
Fair enough. That amounts to taking local control, if district leaders won’t make the call themselves.
Local control has been a stalwart position in Abilene and rural areas during the pandemic. Let’s do what we need to do, not what Harris or Bexar counties, or Austin or Dallas are doing.
But last year, when our local health officials became emphatic about the seriousness of COVID-19 in Abilene, particularly bed capacity at hospitals, we responded to their please. And cases went down.
When we slacked off, cases went up. Statistics show a roller coaster ride.
School districts in Iraan, Gorman, Colorado City and Lueders-Avoca have shut down due to COVID cases. With big cities hammered, rural Texas is getting nailed, too.
There are families here who want their kids to wear a mask at school but fear what other kids will think or do. And once in school, will their kids pull off their mask to fit in?
While masks cannot be mandated, due to the governor’s executive order (the Texas Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of Abbott, for now), students in a class where there is a positive test can be quarantined on campus and must wear a mask or face covering.
But does that come across as after the fact?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has made a mess of the pandemic. Is that understandable because we don’t regularly have health scares, as seen in other countries? Or are we flat-out failing?
Some in Texas now want to secede from the CDC. But do we follow a governor who is up for re-election and caught flak in 2020 for a moderate stand on the pandemic. They believe the governor hasn’t moved far enough to the right — he’s facing opposition in his own party.
Why is health policy even a political football? Let’s tackle how to fix our power grid.
Abbott banned government mandates on vaccines, two days after the FDA approved the Pfizer product. Private businesses can mandate vaccines (well, maybe not cruise lines), he said, but public or private entities that accept funding from the government cannot.
“Some do, some don’t” isn’t going to end the pandemic.
It’s creating islands, pushing people to live in the isolation of their own beliefs.
The problem is, Texas is not a sea.
When you take responsibility, you do that not only for yourself but for others.
That goes back to the time when we helped a neighbor. Protection on the frontier. Building a house. Providing a ladle of water and biscuits to a traveler. You helped someone because someone down the trail could help you.
So let’s be bolder in dealing with the pandemic. Let’s all be socially responsible.
Local health officials keep pointing out our vaccination rate of about 40%, and that most of those who are hospitalized are not vaccinated.
Maybe COVID doesn’t affect you like others, but giving it to someone could make them awfully sick. Or worse. We have recorded 430 deaths here.
If you look around, the list is shrinking as to who hasn’t had COVID. This includes community leaders and even some of us who have been the most outspoken against any restrictions.
COVID doesn’t discriminate, as some still want to believe.
Want to go to school in person? Want to go see a concert, a play, a movie? Want to shop without worrying about empty shelves? Want to get a drink with friends? Want to go to a ballgame — or sit at home when it’s canceled?
It’s time to saddle up and ride hard. Our neighbors need us, so let’s answer the call.
Cowboy up. Cowgirl up. It’s how we do things in West Texas.
Abilene Reporter News