Protesters converged in Austin, Texas, on Monday asking Gov. Greg Abbott to reconsider his decision to drop all coronavirus-related restrictions.
The organizers, which are a coalition of left-wing associations, called on Abbott not to fully reopen the state until 70% of all service workers are vaccinated against the coronavirus. While stats are not available on the percentage of service workers who have been vaccinated, the CDC says that 11% of Texans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, as of Monday.
“Rescinding the mask mandate puts safety enforcement in our hands, which makes our jobs harder and more dangerous,” said the Amplified Sound Coalition.
Organizers launched a petition calling on Abbott to prioritize coronavirus vaccines for service workers.
“After months of not lifting a finger to protect us, and further putting workers in harm’s way, Greg Abbott has made it clear that he cannot be reached nor treated as a rational man,” said the petition. “That is why we are asking our community—the workers, business owners, customers—to join us in demanding that the COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP) prioritize the vaccinations of food, beverage, and grocery workers.”
Abbott was among several Republican governors to lift mask mandates last week. Abbott and other governors cited an increased number of vaccinated residents coupled with a drop in cases. The US is averaging 60,000 coronavirus cases per day, which is down from a peak of 200,000 per day two months ago.
On Monday, the CDC issued new guidance which maintains a recommendation that the public continues to wear masks as vaccines are being administered throughout the population. The guidance, however, did stipulate that small groups of vaccinated people can safely gather without using masks.
But with the vast majority of the population remaining unvaccinated, public health experts were perplexed why Abbott and other governors were dropping mask mandates.
“It is quite risky to completely remove all of the public health measures and just act like there's no virus in the community when we know it is at an unacceptably high level,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with CNN last week. "I'll say it again. I think that's ill-advised.”
While Abbott is still encouraging mask wearing in public, he says that lifting mandates will help Texas’ economy.
“We do encourage people to continue to wear a face mask, to continue to practice safe practices that will ensure that we will be able to get everybody back to work,” Abbott said, “with Texas continuing to lead the United States of America and economic growth and job creation."
While Abbott cited economic concerns, some business owners weren’t convinced the time is right.
“What he's done is he's put the burden on the business now,” Mike Nguyen, Noodle Diner owner, told CNN.