By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
After Gov. Greg Abbott announced he was ending the statewide mask mandate next week on March 10, Austin leaders in key sectors put out statements encouraging Austinites to keep masking.
Leander ISD says it will continue to prioritize student, staff and community health by following the guidance of the state and local health agencies as outlined in its current COVID-19 protocols.
“We will still enforce our existing mask protocols and social distancing requirements,” the LISD statement said. “As we work to slow community spread of COVID-19 and minimize the health risks of in-person learning, we will work with health departments and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) regarding health and safety in our schools. We will adjust when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”
Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown stress the importance of masking to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The two hosted a virtual press conference on Wednesday to respond to Gov. Abbott’s executive order rescinding COVID-19 statewide protocols.
“There is no explanation for the governor’s action other than trying to distract us in the media from the failure from the state that protects us from the power outage. We need to focus on masking,” Adler said.
Adler added that the community has a choice.
“Just because the governor says it cannot be mandated does not mean we don’t need to wear our masks. We can still choose to wear masks. Businesses can still choose to require masking,” he said. “Just like we have done over the last two weeks, now is the moment for our community to pull together to help protect ourselves and one another. Let us do it again.”
Travis County Judge Brown says the announcement from the governor comes at a time when the community is still recovering from the ice storm crisis.
“With just over five percent of our community vaccinated this is no time to be lifting the mask ordinance,” Brown said. “Until we get to an 80% vaccination rate in our community, we will not have herd immunity, so this lifting of the mask order is way, way too soon.”
“The last thing we need is another COVID surge,” he said. “I’d encourage everyone to wear their masks no matter what the governor says.”
Austin Regional Clinic
Austin Regional Clinic will continue to follow CDC guidelines and require all patients and staff to wear masks when in any clinics or our administration building, for everyone’s safety.
As a healthcare provider for over 535,000 Central Texans, ARC cares about the community’s health and safety. This includes our pregnant moms, babies and children in our practices, and patients who may be at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infection due to such conditions as heart disease, COPD, and cancer.
Only about 6% of Texans have been fully vaccinated, and although the positivity rate for COVID-19 infection has been dropping, it still remains a cause for concern and caution, ARC stated.
“ARC knows that our masking guidelines have proven very effective at protecting both our patients and employees, “ said Anas Daghestani, ARC CEO and president. “We encourage our patients to help us combat COVID-19 infections by continuing to follow CDC guidelines for masks, and thank everyone for their understanding and accepting personal responsibility for
themselves, their families, and the community.”
Laura Huffman, president and CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce said in 2020 a task force was formed of over 200 business and community leaders to think through how businesses can stay as safe as possible. “We launched a campaign last summer which was ‘a mask on each of us is a win for all of us’.”
“We do believe that there are practical things each of us can do to keep each other safe. And to make sure that our businesses reopen safely. One of those is choosing to wear a mask in public,” Huffman said. “We urge businesses to continue implementing those measures to protect both your employees and your patrons.”