Blue States Scramble To Loosen Restrictions After Red States’ Success

State Re-openings Around The Country Appear To Be Pressuring States – Particularly Northern States With Democratic Governors, To Soften Their Stances On Mitigations. Now, With Vaccines Promised To The Nation By May 1, Governors Who Had Dug In Are Relenting On Mitigations. Some More Slowly Than Others.  

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Published March 22, 2021

The Center Square [By Chris Krug]-

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was broadly chided after he announced March 2 that his state was reopening without restrictions and without a mask mandate.

“I just announced Texas is OPEN 100%. EVERYTHING,” the Republican governor tweeted. “I also ended the statewide mask mandate.”

Later in the day, Mississippi followed Texas. Although the restrictions did not go into effect until the next week, the states and their citizens immediately leaned into the end to the mandated mask requirements and the mitigations. Iowa, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota then followed with the elimination of mask requirements.

Pushback came from all directions after Abbott’s announcement.

“Opening everything to 100 percent while simultaneously nixing our mask mandate is a huge mistake,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, a Democrat, said in a statement.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called Abbott’s decision “ignorant,” and “really ridiculous.”

Star Trek actor George Takei tweeted, “Make no mistake. Texas and Mississippi opening back up to 100% will disproportionately impact and kill minorities, who comprise much of the essential work force bearing the brunt of this pandemic. This is criminal, a racist death sentence for so many who could have been spared.”

Two weeks later, the data from Texas and Mississippi suggests that neither state is faring worse than states that haven’t yet begun to meaningfully open their states. Comparatively, Texas’ new daily case totals have improved since the reopening.

Per New York Times data, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Texas dropped to 3,420 on March 18 from 7,240 on March 2.

Mississippi’s number increased, but only slightly, to 322 cases on March 18 from 302 on March 2 – far below its COVID apex on Jan. 9, when it reported 3,203 new cases.

State re-openings around the country appear to be pressuring states – particularly northern states with Democratic governors, to soften their stances on mitigations. Now, with vaccines promised to the nation by May 1, governors who had dug in are relenting on mitigations. Some more slowly than others.

In Illinois, where Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker continues to face scrutiny for his handling of state nursing home deaths, an intermediary tier – he called it a “bridge” between Phase 4 (easing of restrictions) and Phase 5 (normalcy) – was announced Thursday. Pritzker, who has operated almost exclusively alone and without contribution from the state’s legislature, has been accused of moving the goalposts several times throughout COVID.

Pritzker’s “bridge” includes new but only slightly enhanced capacities for restaurants and public spaces. Illinois’ confirmed COVID cases were down to 2,409 on March 18. Illinois’ apex reporting of COVID-positive cases occurred on Nov. 13, when it maxed out at 15,223 new cases.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose former Department of Health and Human Services Director, Robert Gordon, abruptly resigned on Jan. 22, said Friday that the state will allow 8,200 fans into Comerica Park for the Detroit Tigers’ home opener on April 1.

Earlier in the week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced that the state would allow restaurant occupancy to increase to 75% and resume bar service without a dining mandate on April 4.

In New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under siege with lingering accusations of pencil whipping nursing home death numbers and unwanted sexual advances toward former female staffers, only 13% of schools have resumed in-person learning. Heralded as a progressive leader and awarded an Emmy for his daily briefings on COVID-19, Cuomo announced Friday that he is removing a curfew on movie theaters, casinos and gyms. But those curfews will remain in effect for the state’s restaurants and bars.

Florida hasn’t lifted its mask mandate but the state government has not imposed its will as many northern governors have during the pandemic.

Florida reported 19,816 new cases on Jan. 7. The number of new cases on March 18 was reported as 5,093. Tampa played host to Super Bowl LV on the first Sunday of February. The game was attended by 25,000 fans and thousands more roamed the streets of Tampa in the week preceding the game.

ABC News questioned whether the Super Bowl would be a super-spreader event in its coverage on Feb. 8, citing “fans partying without masks or bothering to social distance.” On March 3, the local ABC affiliate in Tampa, WFTS-TV, reported March 3 that it was not. A total of 57 cases – 53 in Tampa and four from outside the Super Bowl and its festivities – were reported to the Florida Department of Public Health.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen in photographs and memes chugging beers with motorcycle enthusiasts at Daytona Beach’s Bike Week over the past week, had said prior to the event that the state wouldn’t have lockdowns and urged visitors to use common sense when gathering.

“The lockdown approach, where people are constantly beat over the heads with these directives, where you have massive unemployment, where you have closed schools for a year in some of these places, not only has it been absolutely destructive to these societies, the COVID results per capita have been worse,” the Republican said Thursday night on Fox News.

The governor added that “these are some of the top experts in the world being able to validate that Florida’s approach was the proper approach and the lockdown approach is a failed approach.”

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About the Author:

Chris Krug, The Center Square Publisher

Chris Krug brings more than 25 years of award-winning media experience to The Center Square. He is the former publisher of the Chicago Pioneer Press newspaper chain, and was vice president for Shaw Suburban Media and a deputy editor at the Denver Post.

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