On March 22, after sitting through over two and a half hours of legislating backyard chicken protocols and water drainage logistics — both important, don’t get me wrong — it was disappointing to hear that the College Station City Council proposal opposing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision was no longer on the table. Instead, the city drafted a milquetoast resolution simply encouraging residents to continue wearing masks and maintain social distancing.
Councilman Bob Brick, one of the few on the city council who took strongly against Abbott’s lifting of the Texas mask mandate, said the city’s resolution was the equivalent of saying, “We hope you stop at the stop signs, but if you don’t, then okay.” (1:38:42)
It wasn’t enough, however, to change his fellow council members’ positions.
“I’m not tellin’ the governor a darn thing,” said Councilman Dennis Maloney. “Sometimes I wear a mask; sometimes I don’t (2:00:44).”
“We just want to make it perfectly clear to all those people that are opposed to having to wear a mask, you know, that’s okay, that’s okay(2:01:44),” said Councilwoman Linda Harvell.
Mayor Karl Mooney opted to soften the phrase, “this Resolution shall take effect immediately from and after its passage” to “this Resolution was agreed upon by the City Council on March 22nd, 2021(2:06:58)." Mooney’s decision to change the wording is subtle but important: Instead of focusing on the legislative impact of the resolution, much of the council instead made the pointless gesture of removing any implied action from its language. Even though the city attorney said the original verbiage was standard language and Mooney’s proposed changes were unorthodox, she allowed the resolution to be changed.
But Brick, true to his namesake, remained strong and sturdy in his conviction that Abbott's choice was a major mistake. After voting in favor of the resolution, Brick reiterated, “I just hope that the logic of this doesn’t begin to apply to traffic management (2:08:19).”
Brick is right to be worried.
According to the New York Times’ COVID-19 graph of positive cases, we have recently seen an uptick in our seven-day averages, both in Texas and across the United States. Paired with the fact that many cases over the weekend aren’t counted until the following Monday, we may already be entering another major spike based on past trends and the current evidence.
Recently, Michigan hospitalization rates jumped 800 percent among 40-49 year olds and 633 percent among those 30-39. The more time we give COVID-19 to run rampant, the worse it will get. Let the coronavirus spread to as many people as it can for as long as possible, and it will adapt to overcome our safeguards. If we don’t take measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 this could happen in Texas. Brazos County remains at a very high risk, according to The New York Times.
Spikes in cases and deaths around the world and closer to home should be a grave warning. COVID-19 cases are rising in more than half of states, and Texas is not a bubble. Frankly, Abbott picked an awful time to lift restrictions, and we’d be foolish to follow him.
Not everything has to be doom and gloom, though. In a win for local politics, a county judge ruled the city of Austin and Travis County can continue upholding their municipal mask mandates. The local mandate may be overturned at some point in the future, but Austin has more time to plan and vaccinate their citizens.
Residents who want to see COVID-19 gone for good now have a window of opportunity. The precedent set by Travis County could justify similar legislation in Brazos County. With that legal knowledge in mind, both the city council and well-meaning residents of College Station must push for our own solution. Abbott has made clear his decision to deny communities the right to choose for themselves. In response, we must make our decision to defend the most vulnerable members of College Station clear.
Zachary Freeman is an anthropology junior and opinion writer for The Battalion.