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State-by-state mask mandates send mixed messages as vaccination efforts ramp up

“Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

NEW ORLEANS — We’re more than ready to get back to normal. That much we can agree on, but exactly when to lift or ease COVID restrictions to make that possible is being debated. 

Depending on where you are and who you listen to those restrictions can dramatically differ. The governor of Texas recently ended the state’s mask mandate and called for a full reopening of the state economy.

“This must end, it is time to open Texas 100%,” said Republican Governor Greg Abbott this week.

Abbott's announcement goes against guidance from federal officials. The head of the CDC urged people to remain vigilant even with relatively lower number of COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

In Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards opened up more of the state this week but kept the mask mandate in place. The city of New Orleans is staying put on its reopening. That is just the messaging from various government levels. Then you have major chains like Starbucks and Target. Both will still require masks in their stores nationwide, including Texas.

“I’m going to do what the law tells me to do,” said Chef Duke Locicero.

Locicero owns Dab’s bistro in Metairie. He says restaurants like his are having a tough enough time trying to stay afloat. Locicero say the mixed messages being sent to them and potential customers aren’t helping matters.

“Is it too soon to open all the way? Who knows? I’m not a doctor, all my friends in the restaurant business and small business are just trying to stay alive. What’s fair is fair, we want our customers to come in, but we don’t want to put anybody in danger, that’s the last thing we want to do,” said the chef.

“While I’m not happy with the degree of opening that our governor made in terms of a decision, it’s far more in keeping with where we are for our own particular state pandemic,” said Dr. Susan Hassig.

Hassig is an epidemiologist at Tulane University. She says state messaging on COVID can and will likely differ from federal messaging. Hassig says that’s mainly due to the particular state’s focus on the pandemic’s impact within its borders and not what it’s doing nationwide.

“The boots on the ground decisions happen at the state and local level. The challenge is to what degree are those decisions made by officials at that level based on science or some other factors,” said Dr. Hassig.

Those other factors include politics. Hassig says as you try to cut through the multiple layers of talking heads, always consider the source, and always consider if their advice promotes safety or risk.

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