By EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON
U.S. House of Representatives
There’s an old adage that says, “two things in life are certain: death and taxes.” But as we entered into 2020, another one can now be added to the list of life’s certainties. And that is, the Coronavirus disease is real and its’ effects on humanity has untold proportions.
Last week, our governor, Greg Abbott, arbitrarily lifted the mandatory wearing of protective masks through an executive order. As disturbing as it sounds, he wasn’t the only Republican governor to do so. Just hours later, two states east of Texas, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, lifted their statewide mask mandate as well.
At this juncture in the history of our nation and global community, we remain embroiled in an ongoing battle with COVID-19. The numbers do not lie but rather tell a story of widespread sickness and death. To give you an illustrative picture, Johns Hopkins University and Medicine reports that as of March 7, there are a total of 29 million cases in the United States with 524,000 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University & Medicine report. By comparison to the national average, according to The New York Times, Texas has reported nearly 2.6 million cases and 45,381 deaths. But what is more alarming is that within the last 14 days, in the state of Texas alone, there are more than 99,000 new cases of the virus.
Now, juxtapose the facts with the newest executive order by Abbott. While it does not make good public health sense, it is the reality every Texan now faces. There are federal agencies charged with protecting the health of all Americans. Those U.S. Department of Health and Human Services entities, such as the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, has been clear in how we can individually, as well as collectively protect ourselves. Working in tandem with the DHHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, specific guidelines were issued on three ways Americans can decrease the spread of COVID: 1) avoid crowds; 2) social distance of a least 6-feet from persons who do not live within your home; and the most prominent of them all, 3) wear a mask. Somehow, Abbott believes reopening the Texas economy is more important that saving lives.
U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson is the chairwoman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, the first woman and first African American to hold the position. She represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas.