The South is Opening Back Up But What Does COVID Have To Say About It?

By Hunter Drake and Colin Donahue

COVID-19 may have lost its grip on us in New York but other states aren’t so lucky. States like Texas and Mississippi have recently announced some controversial news regarding the pandemic response but the question remains; What does COVID have to say about it?

As we well know, this virus has dominated our lives for over a year now. This pandemic has had unprecedented effects on our lives, especially the lives of those who have come into “close contact” with the ugly side of this pandemic.

There are more than enough accounts of people who have had important encounters and situations with the coronavirus for there to be real anxiety stemming from the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everybody on the planet at this point in time whether it be directly or indirectly, everybody knows about the virus and has had to endure it one way or another.

A thank you sign outside the main entrance of Strong Memorial Hospital. March 15th, 2021. Photo Credit: Hunter Drake

Although us in New York, more specifically us in Rochester, are in a good standing with a positivity rate of only 1.6% currently, those in other states aren’t feeling so good about the current situation.

The catalyst that truly brought light to the situation was a few weeks ago, when on March 2nd, Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott announced that mask mandates will be lifted in the state, no longer requiring citizens to wear masks in public. Tate Reeves of Mississippi did the same on March 2nd.

With current positivity rates of 13.33% and 16.59%, much higher than New York’s, this has brought up many questions and concerns from the whole nation about the complete overhaul of COVID restrictions and mandates in Texas and Mississippi.

There has been more than enough controversy over this break in regulation, just in late February and early March, roughly 1,500 to 4,000 people died per day due to the virus. While states like Texas and Mississippi have more than triple the positivity rate of states that still have mandates, there must be a reason right?

“There has to be a return to normalcy at some point, we all know that, people are anxious,” Haley Corey, a Sophomore nursing student at Nazareth College, stated, “We still have a battle going on, and to think that people are walking around as if nothing is wrong is a bit premature.”

“It is clear that this pandemic has made me look at my future in a different way… I still love nursing and want to become one, however, it is very discouraging to see people not taking this seriously.”

As of today, there are 38.3 Million Americans fully vaccinated, making 11.68% of the entire population. These numbers are promising, considering they are rising everyday, however, the virus is not going away. According to the CDC Guidance for inoculated citizens, those who are vaccinated should still be wearing masks to protect those who are not yet.

“Although I’m not by any means a doctor, working around doctors and nurses five days a week has definitely given me some insight,” stated Elbert James Jr, a medical supplies deliverer from Strong Hospital. “We only have a fraction of what we need in terms of vaccinations; they definitely shouldn’t be opening all the way quite yet, at least in my opinion.”

Elbert Adams Jr, an employee at Strong Memorial Hospital
Elbert Adams Jr, an employee at Strong Memorial Hospital. March 10th, 2021. Photo Credit: Hunter Drake.

So what’s the deal? If the CDC guidelines recommend for vaccinated individuals to still wear masks, then why are states like Texas or Mississippi lifting their restrictions?

“With the current situation, it amazes me how a state much larger than our own is willing to open up completely when positivity rates are so much higher than our own,” states Adams, “But then again, Florida is extremely laid back on their restrictions and yet they have less deaths per infection than we do here so who knows?”

Charlie Fugett, a Maintenance Technician working in New Jersey said the following about the lack of safety regulations, “Obviously these masks suck… like really, nobody enjoys wearing a mask all the time.”

“However, if this is all it takes to make other people safer, then it’s pathetic that people are being difficult about wearing them”

Research has made it evident, nobody likes the masks. Research, however, has also proven masks to be incredibly effective. According to the FDA, MayoClinic, and the CDC, masks have proven to be inhibitors of the virus. An even more alluring fact, if you are to wear two strong masks properly, it greatly reduces your own and those around you chances of becoming infected.

A study done by the CDC concluded that when wearing two masks correctly, they blocked 77% of particles from a simulated cough, whereas a single mask withheld 51.4%, and no face mask blocks, you guessed it, 0% of particles.

A view of Strong Hospital from inside Mt. Hope Cemetery - a grim reminder that this crisis is surrounded by death and shouldn’t be taken lightly. March 15th, 2021. Photo credit: Hunter Drake.

“Yeah, the masks are annoying but that’s all it is: an annoyance,” said Adams, “The harsh reality is that people are dying because of this virus and to me, it seems extremely ignorant of those governors to ignore the death all around them over something stupid like a mask.”

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