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Here’s why Maryland should care about Texas COVID-19 restrictions (or lack thereof) | COMMENTARY

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is introduced by Dave Marcinkowski in Montelongo's Mexican Restaurant on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Lubbock, Texas. Governor Abbott announced that he is rescinding executive orders that limit capacities for businesses and the statewide mask mandate. (Justin Rex/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is introduced by Dave Marcinkowski in Montelongo's Mexican Restaurant on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Lubbock, Texas. Governor Abbott announced that he is rescinding executive orders that limit capacities for businesses and the statewide mask mandate. (Justin Rex/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP) (Justin Rex/AP)

Now, we all know how frustrated parents of willful children feel. They teach their kids. They model good behavior and make personal sacrifices on behalf of their families. They reinforce key life experiences whenever they can. And then, when it’s time to test that knowledge, to judge whether vital, even lifesaving, lessons have been learned, they discover that it was all for naught. They failed, not because of a lack of capacity to learn on the part of their children, but out of their offspring’s sheer obstinacy and hubris.

Somewhere, the parents of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are surely weeping.

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On Tuesday, the Republican governor announced an executive order rescinding his state’s mask mandate and allowing businesses of all types to be 100% open by next Wednesday. To suggest this order is premature is simply to state the obvious. Within hours of his announcement, Texas public health officials were crying out for people to keep those masks on and continue with other well-reasoned COVID-19 restrictions. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a fellow Republican, made a similar announcement on the same day causing many doctors to be flabbergasted there, too. Both governors claimed their numbers justified the decision. Both are, of course, mistaken.

Texas has a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 8.7%, the lowest the state has recorded since last October but still more than double the national average. And while Governor Abbott may brag about how more than 5 million vaccinations have been administered, the number of Texans fully vaccinated is much lower at about 1.9 million. And that’s in a state of 29 million. Meanwhile, Mississippi’s positivity numbers were considered so suspect that the governor of Ohio, a Republican, last week warned residents about traveling there.

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We would chalk this up to either presidential aspirations (at least in the case of Mr. Abbott) or simply playing to base supporters who are both frustrated by restrictions (understandable) and distrustful of medical experts (not so understandable). But, unfortunately, the governors are doing more than endangering the health and lives of state residents, they may very well be prolonging and worsening the pandemic far beyond their borders. As we’ve observed repeatedly, the virus does not respect state boundaries (or city and county boundaries for that matter). The governors can claim they aren’t telling anyone to take off their masks, merely removing a mandate, but how do you think their constituents are going to react? By keeping them on?

Sometimes it seems as if America, at the 1-year anniversary of the pandemic, needs some kind of collective group therapy session. Can Zoom handle 328 million? We have lost more than a half-million Americans, and it doesn’t help that there’s political hay to be made by being contrarian. Better to attack teachers unions or governors or local health officials or whomever than to face facts that this deadly plague requires us to wear masks, keep social distances, wash hands frequently, avoid crowds and self-isolate. None of this is fun. Not for anyone. But here we are making steady progress, with vaccines slowly working their way into arms. This isn’t the time to declare victory prematurely.

Perhaps it was this frustration that compelled Gov. Larry Hogan this week to reinforce his callous claim that Baltimore was getting more COVID-19 vaccine than it was “entitled to.” First, that’s a bad choice of words in the context of a lifesaving vaccine. And second, it demonstrated a remarkable disinterest in the extent to which vaccines shipped to a majority-Black city are winding up in majority-white suburban arms. As his own health department has reported, less than 40% of doses designated for Baltimore went to actual city residents last week. And it’s perpetuating the problem of Black Maryland residents not getting immunized.

So at the risk of sounding like a broken record — or maybe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Dr. Anthony Fauci or your parents — here’s the bottom line: Let’s act like responsible adults and remember we’re all in this together. As President Joe Biden observed this week, there is a light at the end of the tunnel but we can’t assume victory is inevitable: “We must remain vigilant, act fast and aggressively and look out for one another.” Sometimes, it seems as if the looking out for one another part is the most difficult assignment of all.

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The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.

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