Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope says Governor Abbott's order for most everyone in public to wear a mask is the right move.
Pope says he lines up pretty closely with the governor on politics. And the mayor says the mask order is the best way to keep the economy moving. But, Mayor Pope says the latest order isn't political.
"We know how to flatten this deal. But it appears that, as we reopen, we need a little more help in making certain...that this doesn't spread," Pope said.
"I applaud the governor for his move. I think it's what the mayors of the 20 largest cities in the state have asked him to do. It doesn't matter if we pull a D or an R lever in the voting booth. It's about public safety."
Mayor Pope said he knows there will be some who are upset, including those who think the order doesn't go far enough and those who think it goes too far.
He says the sharp increase in cases, hospitalizations and ICU patients in Lubbock the last three weeks show how important it is for everyone to wear a mask. There are 64 people hospitalized in Lubbock for COVID-19 as of Thursday. This is the most local hospitalizations since the pandemic started. There remains ample hospital space, with more than 400 beds available.
Dean of the Texas Tech School of Medicine Dr. Steven Berk says everyone needs to know Texas hospitals and ICUs are busy. And it will take action from everyone to change this trend. See statewide detailed data here.
Dr. Berk explained how easily the virus spreads by giving an example of a young man who socializes and contracts COVID-19. Dr. Berk said it's true this individual will likely not face any major health complications, or may not have symptoms at all.
"But then he goes to his grandmother's birthday party," Dr. Berk said. "And she's going to be one of those that winds up in the intensive care unit, on a ventilator, and very possibly die. So now, maybe they [young people] get it now."
Dr. Berk stresses masks can save lives, by reducing the spread of COVID-19. The CDC recommends people wear masks in public. Here is more detailed information.
The Texas Medical Association issued a statement applauding the order. Here is a written statement from President Dr. Diana L. Fite:
“The physicians of Texas are very pleased that Governor Abbott is following the science. There is no question about it – face masks reduce the spread of COVID-19. They help protect the people wearing masks, and they help protect the people around them.
“Five actions have proven effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19. TMA strongly believes that Texans should follow these proven guidelines: stay home when possible, wash hands frequently, avoid large crowds, keep six feet apart, and wear face masks or face coverings when around nonfamily members. We support all efforts throughout Texas to reach the highest levels of compliance with these safe practices.”
Recovery Task Force Input
Many business leaders also applaud Abbott's move. Robert Taylor is the co-chair of the Lubbock Economic Recovery Task force and CEO of United Supermarkets. He echoes medical experts, saying masking works.
Taylor says he hopes this latest step will get us to a point where people and businesses are no longer suffering.
"It's hurtful on individuals. It's hurtful on small businesses. And it's hurtful on large business," Taylor said. "So I would say...whatever works, and we're willing to try things that science will support to see if it does work. Hopefully we can control this."
Employees at United, Amigos and Market Street stores have been wearing masks for months now. The Task Force created "Lubbock Safe!", a voluntary program for local businesses to show they are going beyond state requirements to stay safe.
Eddie McBride with the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce says elected officials are in a challenging position, since this is not an exact science. He says, from the business community perspective, they understand the tough call the governor faced.
McBride said a collaborative effort is needed, which includes businesses.
"We need employers to provide masks to their employees," McBride said. "Their customers need to wear masks as well."
He said taking these steps are important to keeping businesses operating and open, as the economy continues to recover.
And on that note, the Chamber is partnering with the City of Lubbock to provide masks to businesses. More info here.