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Texans are letting their governor know what they think of the mask mandate recall. But not everyone agrees. Photo: AP Images
Texans are letting their governor know what they think of the mask mandate recall. But not everyone agrees. Photo: AP Images

Gov. Abbott ended his state’s mask mandate. Texans like Candace Valenzuela share how it’s going

 “While the mask mandate ended in Texas, the COVID pandemic certainly has not,” wrote Rep. Joaquin Castro.

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One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced his decision to lift the state’s mask mandate, also adding that everything in the state could open at full capacity. With the announcement came nationwide scrutiny, but some Texans embraced the end of what they perceive as a way to silence their freedom of speech. 

While most school boards, courts, college campuses and other facilities can still require people to wear masks, several businesses across the state have lifted all COVID-19 restrictions, despite warnings from the CDC and health experts. 

Anti-maskers are reportedly going to public spaces like restaurants and bars, maskless from the get-go. Some are even holding mask-burning parties.

According to Gov. Abbott, cities and counties will only be allowed to impose additional safety restrictions if COVID-19 patients account for more than 15% of local hospitalizations for over seven days.

Businesses can limit capacity or require masks “at their own discretion,” according to Abbott, however epidemiologist Tara C. Smith from  Kent State University told The Daily Beast, “I suspect any businesses that try to maintain required masking will be targeted by the anti-mask crowd.”

It’s a situation with plenty of room for intimidation, and Candace Valenzuela knows this first hand. 

In the 2020 elections, Valenzuela lost a close race to flip Texas’ 24th district — one that has been represented by a Republican since 2005 and has been steadily diversifying over the last couple decades, as reflected by the razor-thin final margin.

She ran against Trump Beth Van Duyne in a district which covers the suburbs between Dallas and Fort Worth. 

The race eventually came to an end on Nov. 10, when Valenzuela lost by a margin of 1.3 percentage points. 

Since then, Valenzuela has continued to mobilize voters in Texas.

But recently, she took to Twitter to relay an encounter sparked by Gov. Abbot’s mask recall. 

“An unmasked woman walked up to my babysitter at the park with my kids,” Valenzuela began, going on to say that the woman intended to have her unmasked children play with hers. This happened one day before the mandate was set to expire.

"Well, I don't know if you heard, but the governor says we don't have to wear masks anymore. I'm trying to expose my 6-month-old (she indicates) to more kids,” the woman told Valenzuela’s babysitter.

Pandemic danger aside, she then went on to criticize Gov. Abbott for his response to Texas’ recent winter storm disaster. 

Valenzuela isn’t the only Texan making their voice heard amid the change in mask policy. Former HUD secretary Julián Castro has been blasting the governor for his covid response for months. 

“Texas had 5,409 new Covid cases yesterday, and nearly 200 people lost their lives. Governor Abbott has ignored public health experts in reopening Texas and ending the mask mandate. For your neighbors, family, friends, please keep wearing a mask and social distancing,” he wrote on Twitter.

He was joined by his brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro. 

“While the mask mandate ended in Texas, the COVID pandemic certainly has not,” he wrote.

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