Texas is hot mess, or rather, cold mess; Climate change, ending mask mandate

     Being from the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, it’s hard to understand how a few inches of snow could cause such a problem. Marylanders attended school last year during a snow squall for Christ’s sake! How could Texas be so freaked out?

     Geography. Maryland is located in a region with incredibly bipolar weather. In late February, it snowed a good few inches, and then two days later the temperature was in the 50s and people were wearing shorts! But enough about Maryland, this about Texas.

     Being in the south, Texas is typically a warmer state. According to weather.com, the average low in February is 42.4 degrees. And, in order for snow to fall, the temperature has to be 32 degrees or lower and there has to be a chance of precipitation. The odds of snow falling in Texas were incredibly low.

     Due to that low chance, the state was entirely unprepared for what would ensue. The winter storm caused power outages, bursting water pipes, water and gasoline shortages, and at least 51 deaths.

     Texas was incredibly ill-equipped for the winter storm. Their infrastructure is built to withstand high temperatures and droughts, not single digit weather and any amount of snowfall.

     Fortunately, the events in Texas serve as a warning for other states that they are not immune to climate change. Hopefully, the southern states will begin to make the necessary changes to prevent this from happening again, and the northern states will prepare for the possible threat of weather that was once thought to be impossible. If Texas can freeze, couldn’t Washington experience drought? Or Minnesota go through an extreme heat wave?

     While on the climate change end of things, Texas serves as a warning, the Covid end just made the state the guinea pig.

     On  March 2, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that he will be ending the statewide mask mandate and allow businesses to operate at full capacity. “It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” he says. Really? With 7,240 new cases on the day that was announced (New York Times)? That’s when it’s time?

     Anti-maskers argue that this is a great idea. “Masks don’t work anyways and Florida’s been open since September and they’re doing just fine!” Actually, both of those statements are painfully incorrect.

     First of all, while Florida initially saw a drop in cases after ending their mask mandate, they saw a huge spike around the holidays with a peak on Jan. 8 of 19,530 new cases (New York Times). This spike was likely due to large gatherings with no masks for the winter holiday season.

     Plus, Florida has been accused of altering death counts around election time. Florida newspaper South Florida Sun Sentinel reported “the public didn’t see the actual dates of the deaths in that tally. What the public saw: a death count that declined in the days leading up to the election, and slowly climbed back up in the days after it.”

     The newspaper also stated that “The Florida Department of Health has refused to release COVID death certificates to scientists or journalists to review.” They also pointed out that these records had been made available to the public in the past.

     The point in that being that Florida is not a reliable card to pull when arguing the effectiveness of mask mandates. That being said, a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that masks are most effective when worn (correctly) by 100 percent of the population. The same article reported that individually, masks are 79 percent effective in preventing transmission.

     Overall, Texas needs to be watched carefully to ensure that cases and deaths are being properly reported. Hopefully, when things turn out horribly, horribly wrong, Texas will revert back to safer guidelines, and the rest of the US can make note of what not to do.