One Texas bar has decided to buck CDC guidelines, recommendations from state leadership, and common sense and has banned masks in their establishment. The Liberty Tree Tavern in Elgin, Texas, outside of Austin, put a sign in their window telling customers there are no masks allowed inside.
"Due to our concern for our customers, if they FEEL (not think), that they need to wear a mask, they should stay home until they FEEL that it's safe to be in public without one. Sorry, No Mask Allowed," it reads.
While the bar is participating in some social distancing practices, masks somehow fall into a different, unacceptable category for the bar's owners. Liberty Tree Tavern co-owner, Kevin Smith, told KXAN that the "no mask" policy "is more of a push back against the wannabe snitch patrols and the contact tracers they're gonna hire."
"This is still rural Texas," he continued. You know what doesn't care where it spreads? COVID-19. And with the death toll reaching 100,000 in the U.S. alone, a shocking and avoidable number, you'd think everyone would do whatever they could to make sure that number doesn't get any higher.
The protective mask mandate should not be a partisan political issue. No one's rights have been infringed upon. It's a mask, one that could potentially help slow the spread of a deadly virus. Wanting fewer people to die has become a "radical" position, and it's beyond frustrating.
Yet, that's where we are. Elgin is a small-ish town with a population of about 10,000, and so far, the town has reported 52 cases of COVID-19. And not everyone is comfortable with banning masks in public places like bars.
"I think that's a risk. I think that's foolish," said Elgin resident Ross Owens about the bar's no mask policy. "They're taking chances they don't need to take, especially if they're in public service."
Sherrill Schier, who runs a store in town, doesn't wear a mask herself but does provide them for customers. She says she doesn't personally know anyone who's gotten the virus, and she says that Elgin is a small town without a lot of crowds.
Texas hasn't mandated the use of masks in public, and on APril, 27, Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order saying local governments cannot penalize residents to violate local mask-wearing mandates.
According to the Texas Tribune, "Without a statewide directive on personal protective gear, further efforts to flatten the curve have essentially amounted to a statewide experiment in cooperation, hinging on the individual decisions of millions."
If enough Texans' decisions resemble that of the ownership of the Liberty Tree Tavern in Elgin, that might be a problem. This isn't just about one bar in rural Texas.
This is about anyone who doesn't wear a mask because it's inconvenient or because they believe their rights are being infringed upon. This is about a difference in fundamental character and beliefs when it comes to humans' responsibility to and for each other.
Wearing a mask doesn't protect you from getting the virus, but it could protect you from spreading it to someone else if you're asymptomatic. This isn't a joke, and this isn't a political disagreement. This is a virus that's killing people every single day. I urge anyone who's upset about the prospect of wearing a mask to examine their values.