Texas v Louisiana: Why are Their Policies on Masks So Different?
Yesterday, Governor John Bel Edwards announced that starting Wednesday August 4th, 2021 Louisiana will reinstate it's statewide mask mandate. Meanwhile, last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order banning mask mandates or mandating COVID vaccines by government agencies across the state. For two states that border each other, how could the approach to the same issue be so drastically different?
And, quite frankly, I'm not sure there's an easy or simplistic answer. Some people say it's the difference between Democratic led and Republican led states. Which that may be a factor, but I believe that there's more to it than that. Louisiana, per capita, has the highest rate of COVID spread in the United States. I think that played a major role in Governor Edward's decision and I believe he truly is, in his mind, is doing the best thing he can do to protect the people of Louisiana.
However, I think the major deciding factor in all this is money and federal aid. You keep hearing Governor Edwards talk about hospitals being at capacity due to COVID cases. He also mentioned that 'flattening the curve' through the mask mandate will keep hospitals from being overwhelmed like they were earlier in the pandemic. Well, yesterday during the Governor's press conference, Dr. Joseph Kanter shed some more light on that particular situation.
About 20 minutes in the Governor's announcement, Kanter began speaking at length about the issues Louisiana is facing due to COVID-19. "In the beginning we were worried about PPE and ventilators. Thankfully we have more than enough of those right now. We were later worried about physical space. Right now, the key limiting factor right now is human resources. It's staffing." Kanter then went on to discuss the major shortage of nurses in Louisiana and how hospitals are asking nurses to pull extra shifts to cover everyone's needs, especially when it comes to treating COVID patients.
In addition to those statements, Kanter mentioned that the state has made 'unprecedented' requests for federal assistance including Federal Disaster Medical Teams. DMAT teams are typically requested during natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. Kanter reiterated numerous times that this is an unprecedented request that the Federal Government has granted, albeit on a limited basis. Interestingly enough, back at the height of the COVID pandemic in April of 2020, there were mass nursing layoffs due to "lack of patients". So, this particular problem seems to be a self created issue. But, I guess that's not really the point because no matter the cause, the seems to be the major issue that Louisiana is currently facing.
Given what we've learned throughout the COVID pandemic, states generally have to meet certain criteria and follow certain guidelines to get help from the federal government. And I believe that's biggest difference between COVID policies between Louisiana and Texas. Texas is not asking for any federal aid, Louisiana, on the other hand, is making some pretty big asks. So, to counter balance those 'unprecedented' asks, the State of Louisiana had to do something. And that something seems to be a statewide mask mandate.